The Mysteries of Trapani

One of Sicily’s most evocative religious processions

The Misteri di Trapani is arguably one of Sicily’s most atmospheric religious events, taking place on Good Friday and with origins that date back hundreds of years. The name ‘Misteri’ is thought to refer to the mystery of Christ but is also the Sicilian word for profession or craft.

The procession involves the transportation of a series of extraordinary full-size wooden statues, adorned with gold and coral, on a wooden structure (vara) through the streets of Trapani by the statue bearers (the massari). Created in the 18th century out of cypress wood and cork, each of the 20 groups of statues represent typical local jobs (fishermen, blacksmiths, salt workers) whose representatives are responsible for their general preservation and, on the day, their transportation and adornment in purple tunics and robes.

From 2pm on Good Friday, the statues are accompanied by local bands and vast numbers of spectators and the procession continues until midnight when the statues are returned to the Chiesa del Purgatorio in Via Francesco d’Assisi where they are kept. Unfortunately, the church is not usually open to the general public although appointments can be pre-arranged.

As one of the most ancient religious traditions in Europe, the Misteri is clear proof of Sicily’s deeply spiritual side but the event is also a memorable experience for visitors to the island.

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