Processions of the Holy Week of Mendrisio
Egidio Croci, President of the "horses commission" for the Processions of the Holy Week of Mendrisio, Intangible Cultural Heritage:
What is your role in the Processions of the Holy Week of Mendrisio?
I have been officially involved in the organization of the processions for about 52 years, and for the last 50 years I have been president of the "horses commission". My task is to find the animals that parade during the Maundy Thursday procession, and their horsemen, who are usually the owners of the horses. Every year we count 39 horses for Maundy Thursday, with at least three in reserve just in case. On the other hand, there are only five horses in the Good Friday procession: three lead the way and two close the procession. On average 60-70% of the horses are the same every year and come from stables in the Mendrisiotto region.
What relationship do you have with this living tradition?
I was born and raised in Coldrerio, near Mendrisio, and thanks to my grandfather's farming animals, I began to have a passion for horses at the age of five. Every free moment, during the holidays or simply at the weekend, I would visit my grandfather and the horses, with whom I formed a strong bond. Given the historical importance of the processions throughout the Mendrisiotto region, I approached the event thanks to the horses. These beautiful animals are an integral part of the processions.
What is your favourite moment on this celebration? Can you tell us some secrets?
The processions are in my thoughts almost all year round. There is a lot of preparation and coordination involved, and the most beautiful moment is Maundy Thursday, when everything finally takes shape and the horses parade with their horsemen. Months of preparation turn into a great satisfaction that I then share with the volunteers and the local population. The atmosphere is unique, especially thanks to the lights of the "transparencies", translucent canvas paintings mounted on "crates" and lit from within.
What is the best way to participate and why?
The best way to experience the processions is certainly as a participant. The tradition is centuries old and the population of Mendrisio has always shown a strong attachment to this unique event. Participation in the processions as a volunteer or as a figurant is open to everyone, but obviously, we give priority to those who live in the region and those who already have experience: parading through the city on horseback is not for everyone, and the safety of the public, the horsemen and the animals must also be taken into account. The most important figure on horseback is the figure of King Herod, then there is also the figure of Nascia (father with child), which is always very popular, so we try to change it every year. Other figures that are not on horseback are the responsibility of my colleagues. The coveted Christ figure, for example is kept secret and drawn by lot. Some candidates wait as long as two or three years before they can take on the role.
What activities do you particularly recommend?
For those who have the opportunity to visit Mendrisio during the Easter period, the processions are an unmissable event that has been going on for over 400 years. For the duration of Holy Week you can admire the "transparencies" in the streets of the old town. The costumes of the participants can also be admired in a shed where a local volunteer explains the particularities of the costumes, characters and processions to those interested. The Maundy Thursday procession with its 270 participants is dedicated to the representation of the Passion and the Via Crucis, while the Good Friday procession has over 700 participants and is much more solemn and austere. For those who visit the region during the rest of the year, I recommend a visit to the Transparent Museum in Casa Croci, a beautiful 19th century building. The museum presents the famous 'transparents', which have become a key part of the processions' candidacy for the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Translated from Italian, March 2021