The songs of the Passion popular faith of Holy Week

  • 01/03/2024
  • 307



by Luciano Troiano

WEDNESDAY 27 MARCH 2024 – 8.30 p.m.
BORGO CASE TROIANO (motorization area – PE)

Info. 331/6796820 –

In few places in Abruzzo does the song of the Passion endure, brought to homes, villages and the countryside, in the first days of Holy Week. The event on Wednesday 27 March 2024 in Borgo Case Troiano is made possible thanks to the collaboration between the Fontevecchia Association of Spoltore (Pe), the Cantori of the Grotta and S. Anna districts of Chieti, the Beato Marco d'Aviano Association and the Giglio Bakery.

The singing of the Passion is also a tradition in other regions, it was also performed on the Sundays of Lent and the singers, at the end of the song, were sometimes asked to perform other religious pieces.

It is an event of popular music whose purpose is to evoke the traditions and songs of almsgiving, bringing to light the archaic link between faith and culture.

Completely improvised groups, made up of peasants, laborers and women of the people, went to the houses singing the long Calvary of Christ until his resurrection.

Eggs, Easter pizzas but above all the typical dessert "Lu Castelle" (ancestor of the Easter egg  soaked in local cooked wine), were the most common gifts that "Li Passijunire" received at the end of the carols.

In particular , the eggs received by the master of the house are an exquisitely Easter food because they indicate rebirth, God's embrace with man, reconciliation between heaven and earth and, above all, an apotropaic symbol of cosmogony and birth from which the universe originates with its vital forces.

The Songs of the Passijòne are paraliturgical religious songs.  Their archaic nature emerges from the presence of melodic trends rich in melismatic decorations, i.e. loading  a group of  more or less large and intense notes onto a single  textual syllable . The result is a style that harks back to the sources of late-medieval penitential devotion. These ancient narrative songs, which represent the forms of worship in which backgrounds of pagan rites and conceptions resurface, are inspired by the hagiographic and moralizing legends of the Middle Ages or by the Bible and the apocryphal gospels. Almost all of the prayers performed have a unique melodic structure that is repeated for each of them: this practice has facilitated the learning of long narrative texts.

The songs evoke the hours of the Passion, with the memory of the salient moments of the last twenty-four hours of Christ's life. The singers were accompanied by two-tone accordion and triangle, sometimes by bagpipes. "Lu rellogge della passijone" is one of the songs most adaptable to diatonic instruments such as the accordion.  Perhaps this is why it is one of the most listened to during the almsgiving: "At five o'clock in the garden Lu buon gesù ca jò At six o'clock from the eternal father to the King of heaven went...... At twenty-four o'clock Jesus went to the tomb only out of our love, He saved us all."

No less important are the Laments of Mary, vulgarly called "lu sclame de la Madonna" which highlight the deep sorrow of the Mother for the death of her dear Son: "O fijie fijie me tu mi lasciatePe salvà lu monne mi 'bbandunate...".

For the people of the countryside, the day of the Songs of the Passijòne was different from the others in Holy Week: the bells were tied and the search for the houses began with songs of begging narrative of the Passion of Jesus Christ, from the betrayal of Judas Iscariot to the Resurrection. At the Gloria of the  solemn Mass the bells are rung, from this moment the normal operation of the Gloria on the evening of Holy Saturday resumes.

The elders used to combine the silence of the bells with a very tiring fast "Lu trapasse" which, done for seven consecutive years, so the religious belief says, has the ability to eternally purify a dear soul in Purgatory. During these days of silence, the priest instructed local young people to go around the streets of the village with the classic popular instrument, lu ciuccule, in place of the bells, to announce the various religious functions.

The history and diffusion of the Songs of the Passijone are handed down orally, from generation to generation, in the various centers of Southern Italy. Some of these songs come from Montecassino and are up to a thousand years old. Some, initially, were performed in Gregorian chant and were transformed over the centuries. This custom affected the whole region and was widespread in every district, on Holy Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Christian drama reached its climax. For Abruzzo it originated from the common religious sentiment, with its roots in the painful Gospel story.

In the rural districts, in these days, popular singers accompanied by a few musical instruments, moved to the villages, to isolated houses to sing the Songs of the Passijòne. It was almost like a religious rite: in a society deeply permeated by the Christian experience, the subject was dictated by the liturgical deadline that culminated with the death of Jesus and, around the small group of musicians, women, children, men gathered in a circle, and all in silence listened to the words in song that narrated the dramatic events of the flagellation,  of the journey to Calvary, of the crucifixion, of the death of Jesus and recalled the excruciating pain of Madonna.Il group was made up of a few people who, to the sound of the accordion or accordion that accompanied the singers, moved from house to house, stopping in the hallway, at the foot of the stairs, in front of the stable, wherever there was a space frequented by the neighborhood. To imagine how in the complete darkness that characterized past centuries, in the evening, this small group of singers approached a country house, illuminating the path with a few torches, singing these melodies that became, as they approached, louder and louder. At the end, as mentioned, the singers were offered food, a traditional greeting and moved on to another house.

Sources: Sound Archive, Silvestre BackgroundThe Songs of the Passion of Christ – L'Aria di Penne The Song of the Passion, Santino VernaLu Giuviddì Sante by Fr. Donatangelo LupinettiArchive of Italian Folklore, Rai Teche

About Us

The committee for the establishment of the Fontevecchia Association was formed in 2010 and is an active part of civil society with interventions relating to the environment, mobility, knowledge and integration. The purpose of the association, in addition to the protection of traditions, the territory and the aesthetic redevelopment of the village born in 1600, is articulated on a wide range of interventions.