On this spring day, the sacristy is transformed into a workshop. Children and adults alike are kept busy amid a constant hubbub. They chat and laugh, without ever losing sight of the palm models which, in the hands of the elders – possessors of a know-how to be transmitted – will become e crucettes, lucky charms that each will distribute to their loved ones.
With rigour, patience and skill, small hands taper the light yellow leaves, a symbol of purity, before taking on the complicated task of braiding. In just a few hours, more or less sophisticated crosses will have taken shape – alongside stars, fish, ears of corn and even pullezzule – impressive works of art. Tomorrow, as tradition dictates, these long and meticulous works will be blessed in order to accompany the ritualised marches of Holy Week (a settimana santa, as we say in Corsica), starting with Palm Sunday.
Confraternities and living traditions
Taking on the role of masters of ceremonies, the Corsican confraternities reveal themselves in their most beautiful habits! Braiding their palms, they prepare to conduct parish services and lead the processions until Easter Sunday.
Created in pursuit of solidarity and as protectors of local customs, as a form of spirituality, these groups of men (or sometimes mixed groups) have formed part of the Bastian religious landscape for centuries. To each his own district, dress codes, patronal feast and rituals, including the famous granitula!
To be experienced from within, this nocturnal Holy Week march, practised in Erbalungo – on the side of Cap Corse and at the northern end of Bastia – traces the outline of the seashell of which it bears its name, rolling up to form a compact point, then unwinding while the confreres repeat the same chant. Meanwhile, a cerca, another procession bringing together no less than four local confraternities, will take you from church to church through the hamlets of Brando, on a route spanning 14 km.
And this is just a glimpse of everything to be discovered over eight days, both at the gates of the Bastia region and within the town walls!
Take part in a vigil in Pietranera; follow closely behind the catenacciu, a penitent who, under the dawn and the hood, crosses the streets of Bastia with a heavy cross on his back; pr push open the doors of a chapel to discover one of these locally produced ephemeral decorations (i sepolcri), representing Christ’s placement in the tomb and welcoming many local Bastians in prayer until late in the evening … This is what Bastia has to offer you: total immersion in the heart of the sacred!
In Santa Maria di Lota before the picnic
The tenebrae service, mysterious and striking, completes this journey – with the lights turned off. Come and listen blindly! In Santa Maria di Loto, on the eve of Maundy Thursday and always entrused to the confreres, this service consecrates the victory of Christ over death in a tumult of percussion that evokes the earthquake after crucifixion. And it could just as easily drive out the devil!
Finally, after the noise of the night, another candlelit procession awaits you here, ending on your knees, from the nave to the holy tomb. Yet another way of the cross, known as e trescinelle, makes way for the following day’s activities, during which the confraternities and parishioners of Figarella, Mandriale and San Marino di Lota will embark on a four-hour journey. Setting off on the road and trails, to the sounds of i canti e i lodi di u venneri santu, together they will meet to form a guard of honour, or a parata, in sign of deference and piety.
Next, comes Holy Saturday, the day of the blessing of the houses and of the new fire into which the palms of the previous year will be thrown. Then, on Easter Sunday, with its traditional meal composed of lamb and sweets, finished off with a campanile (those great brioche crowns topped with a hard-boiled egg!). As houses fill with joy, the bells ring in the merendella, an Easter Sunday picnic Corsica style – synonymous with renewal and resurrection.