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Holy Week Traditions in Teramo: The Procession of the Virgin of the Sorrows

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Easter is upon us and with the beginning of Holy Week, the small towns of Abruzzo are preparing to stage the sacred re-enactments that characterize this period.

In particular in Teramo, where the procession of the Desolate Virgin Mary begins on Good Friday, before sunrise. In fact, from the early hours of the morning, the procession of the faithful winds along a path that includes the seven most significant churches in the city. The procession begins at the Church of Sant’Agostino and ends in the Church of the Annunziata, where the Dead Christ is lying in a coffin.

Ancient Traditions

This procession, an event rooted in the Teramo community, originated in 1290 and was initially located in the church of San Giacomo, which has now disappeared.

During the religious procession, the women wear dark veils on their heads, just as was the custom in the past, while carrying the statue of the Virgin. The faithful marching behind the cross, carry torches or candles in the first part of the procession before dawn, which makes the procession even more moving.

The rite of the Desolate represents the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who goes in desperate search for her son, condemned to certain death. This ritual takes place in all seven churches of Teramo, which also represent the seven sorrows of Maria Addolorata. This procession, unique in the whole region, is one of the first sacred representations born in Abruzzo.

Throughout the streets of Teramo, the procession accompanies the wooden statue of the Virgin of Sorrows, called the Desolata.

The Seven Churches

The seven churches where the procession stops are: the church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Duomo, the church of San Domenico, the church of Santo Spirito, the church of the Madonna del Carmine, the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, the church of Sant’Antonio and the church of the Annunziata. In each of these churches, Our Lady enters to look for her Son condemned to death, and in the first six churches, she does not find him.

When the procession arrives at the last church, that of the Annunziata, it is just after 7:00 am. The statue of the Madonna enters and this time, finally finds her son Jesus dying and lying in the four-poster funeral bed, supported by angels. Our Lady stops in this church to give her last farewell to her Son, after which she resumes her journey.

There is an atmosphere of mourning throughout the town. Even the balconies are draped with purple or black cloths. 

This particular rite, simple and moving, represents the desperate journey of the Madonna in search of Jesus condemned to death and therefore also the pain of all the mothers who have lost a child.

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To find out more about other Abruzzese traditions, click here.

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