During Holy Week, Christians recall the events leading up to Jesus’ death by crucifixion and, according to our faith, his Resurrection. The week includes five days of special significance. The first is Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ humble entry (on a donkey) into Jerusalem to observe Passover. In many Christian churches Palm Sunday is celebrated with a blessing and procession of palms which are distributed to the faithful after the Mass.
Particularly popular this day are the so-called Panareddhi , ie small baskets made with palm woven leaves.
Panarieddhi can have different shapes and sizes and many of them are enriched with coloured eggs, chocolates and candies. This tradition, in the past, had a much stronger value than now. Young fiancés, for example, used to exchange small baskets as a gift of peace. In some places, on the other hand, the daughters-in-law brought the palm to their mother-in-law and received in exchange a gift which, almost always, consisted of a small golden object.
Moreover these twigs acted as “peacekeepers” among those who had quarrelled during the year and who still had not reconciled.. It was customary to carry a palm leaf as a sign of peace and to ask forgiveness for the evil done. After this festive day, the Lenten countenance returns inexorably.

Maundy Thursday, also known as “Holy Thursday,” is the Thursday of Passion Week, one day before Good Friday (the Friday before Easter). Maundy Thursday is the name given to the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, known as the Last Supper. Two important events are the focus of Maundy Thursday. First, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples and thereby instituted the Lord’s Supper, also called Communion
Second, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of humility and service, thereby setting an example that we should love and serve one another in humility.
In Salento,starting from the morning of Holy Thursday the bells of each church are “ttaccate” ( tied), that is they are mute, already in mourning. The Eucharistic liturgy includes the commemoration of the Last Supper: all the churches are pervaded by the scent of baskets full of fresh bread, which will be divided between the interpreters of the twelve apostles, who participate in the washing of the feet, and the faithful who attend Mass. On the same day, at the end of the celebration, we have the preparation of the so called “sabburchi”, ie the Altar of Reposition (Commonly called “sepulchre”) where the “ Eucharistical Species” are preserved at the end of the Vespertine Mass. In the collective imagination people think of the tomb where Jesus Christ was laid. In reality, however – as just described – the explanation is very different.
According to tradition, the altar of the repository is solemnly decorated, with floral arrangements or other symbols, in homage to the Eucharist, which is kept in an urn, called the repository, in order to allow Communion on the following day, Good Friday, to the faithful who participate in the Liturgical Action of the Lord’s Passion. In fact, on Good Friday the Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered and therefore the Eucharist is not consecrated. In the city, instead, it also becomes a moment in which to meet with friends and relatives – perhaps those who study or work far from the province – and spend the evening together.

Each church chooses a different theme to pay homage to the Eucharist. And perhaps this is precisely the aspect that stimulates the curiosity of visitors. In addition to the aspect linked to prayer (every faithful visit from five ,how many are the wounds of Christ, to seven ,how many are the pains of the Madonna, altars), the other motivation that pushes many people, from Lecce and elsewhere, to make this “tour” lies in the purely artistic side. A tradition to which they are very attached and fond .

Very important in the liturgical calendar is the day of Good Friday, in which, during the late afternoon hours, the different parishes organize the Procession with the body of the dead Christ and the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, along the streets of each town.
In the characteristic centres of Salento, participation in the Stations of the Cross is a very suggestive experience not only for locals but also for tourists.
Among the most significant processions, particular mention goes to those of Maglie and Gallipoli.

In Gallipoli the Procession of the Mysteries, also called “L’Urnia”, starts on Friday afternoon and lasts until late at night. During the funeral procession, the main Churches of the town are touched, but the most striking is the parade of penitents. These are hooded men who parade barefoot and dressed in a red or white tunic. They hold a “trozzula” in their hands, a crown made of dry branches on their heads and some of them drag a large wooden cross. Belonging to the various Gallipolian brotherhoods, they surround during the procession beautiful statues made of papier-mâché, which symbolize the stages completed by Christ in the last salient moments of life. Some of these penitents are used to be beaten with an ancient instrument of torture similar to the whip.

The same type of spectacularity can also be found in Maglie where the Good Friday procession is also called Procession of the Mysteries. Everything starts at 4 pm; the beautiful and sorrowful statue of the Madonna, mourning her dead Son, placed on the shoulders of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows, is brought in front of the Mother Church and temporarily placed inside the hall of a palace. During this journey the statue is accompanied by a large group of choristers veiled in black with their sad song.
Meanwhile, in the nearby Church of Our Lady of Grace, the homonymous confraternity prepares the statue of the dead Christ for the procession. This statue is also taken in front of the Mother Church where it joins the statues that recall the most important moments of the Passion of Christ. At this point, the procession will begin to wind its way through the city streets in a route of about 4 kilometres with sixteen stops, every 250 metres, to allow the necessary exchanges between the statue bearers.
Succession of the statues: Christ at the Garden, Christ at the Column, Christ and Pilate, Ecce homo (by Eugenio Maccagnani), Christ meets the Mother, La Veronica (the sheet on which the face of Christ is imprinted, brought to the four corners by as many girls), Christ on the Cross, the Pietà, the Cross of flowers, the statue of the dead Christ followed by the brothers of Our Lady of Grace, escorted by the Carabinieri in high uniform.
At the passage of the statue of the dead Christ, the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried out of the hall of the palace on the shoulders of the brothers and from there continues joining the procession. The statue is preceded by little girls dressed in black, like the statue itself, and like the women of the confraternity who accompany them. The procession is accompanied by the sad notes of the prelude to Act 3 of G. Verdi’s “Traviata”, as well as the prayers of the faithful.

We finally arrive on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, the bells ring festively and the church statues, covered by the drapes of the sepulchres, are discovered. While mass is celebrated in the churches, a more profane ritual takes place in the streets, the “caremma” is burned. This is a puppet of rags depicting the widow of Carnival, which is hung on balconies or at the crossroads of the streets from Ash Wednesday onwards. She is put in her hand a bitter orange with seven feathers stuck in it and on Easter day, after Lent, she is blown up with a charge of firecrackers.
Another typical character of Easter in Salento is “Pati Paticchia” (from the Greek Pathos, patire), representing the Roman legionnaire who scourged the body of Christ. In ancient times the statue, typical of the town of Galatina, was exposed to the public, but the faithful used to damage it to symbolically punish the scourge of Jesus.

Finally, on Monday, as in the rest of Italy, also here in Salento we celebrate the Angel’s Monday or Easter Monday, when we remember the Angel’s meeting with the women who came to the Sepulchre. This day is generally spent with relatives or friends with a traditional trip or outing, picnic on the grass and outdoor activities.
In the whole province of Lecce, the Easter celebrations have their epilogue with the Easter Monday, while in Lecce everything lasts also on Tuesdays, respecting an ancient custom, heritage of the Byzantine rite, called “Lu Riu”. Its origins date back to the deep veneration of the people of Lecce towards the Madonna of Loreto whose dialectal form “d’Aurio and d’Auriu” has undergone many of those variations until it became “Lu Riu”. In the past, the tradition was to make a pilgrimage to the church dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, built in the 11th century in the countryside north of the town. At the end of the pilgrimage the devout believers used to eat a meal brought from home.
The festivities on the Tuesday after Easter are also based on the fact that the church dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto was built by Basilian monks who had fled from the East to avoid the prohibitions imposed by Emperor Leo III, in a place called Aurio, which derives its toponymic meaning from Laυrion, diminutive of Làυra. The Basilians maintained their Byzantine rite in this area, which is why the Virgin Mary is celebrated on the Tuesday after Easter, as is the case in the Byzantine rite.