From north to south, the faithful gather to parade their patron saints throughout the city, although these processions vary greatly depending on the region.
In the south of the island, without doubt the most remarkable procession is le « catenacciu », which literally means « the chain bearer ».
Come to Sartène in order to experience an unforgettable example of Corsican tradition.
The people of Sartène are fiercely proud of keeping alive this most ancient religious tradition that dates back to the XIIIth century and which seems to be stuck in time. « U catenaccciu » is a ceremony that recalls Christ’s journey up to Calvary. On Good Friday, this old town relives the passion of the Christ through this procession known as the catenacciu. As night falls slowly over the city, candlelight begins to illuminate the windows and the shadows start to stretch out towards the Place Porta. The doors of this sacred building swing wide open, and the procession leaves the church. The penitent is dressed in a hooded robe, with chains around his feet (weighing 17 kg) and carrying an enormous cross made of oak that weighs a mighty 37 kg. In this way, he completes a 1.8 km route of the city and must fall three times along his journey, just as Christ himself did. The list of volunteers to be the catenacciu is extremely long. The penitent – whose identity is a mystery to all but the priest – would have waited for this moment for many years.
If you are in the Cargèse area, you will experience a different ceremony.
The ancient Greek colony of Cargèse also follows a traditional ritual during the Easter celebrations. These Pascal ceremonies are celebrated at the Orthodox Church. On Good Friday, in the evening, there are songs and lamentations held in the church, which is kept in darkness for the occasion. On Easter Saturday, the ceremony of the candles welcomes light back into the church and, at midnight, the Greek Orthodox mass is sung. On Easter Monday there is a procession, during which one of the colony’s religious icons is held up to the four points of the compass. Just as there are two churches that stand opposite one another, the parish of Saint Spiridion has its Roman Catholic counterpart in the parish of Saint Antoine de Cargèse. Setting aside their different religious traditions for this occasion, the two congregations unite in order to hold a joint procession, and they are soon joined by the congregation of the parish of Saint Antoine de Piana as well.
In Bonifacio :
Members of the five brotherhoods, taking different routes, walk in procession through the town and meet once again at the parish church where they receive a blessing from the relic of the Holy Cross. Each brotherhood carries its own relics and wooden statues of saints on baroque style shrines that are illuminated with torches and lanterns. Traditional chants and pagan rites add to the mysticism of these processions.
If you are in the Bastia or Balagne area;
Follow la « Granitula », a procession that takes a spiralling route. The faithful set out in the morning. They go from church to church and from village to village while chanting, and the procession winds around and around the church courtyards in a spiral that resembles a snail’s shell before unwinding once again. You can also join in with the chanting during the « Parata » that takes place in the evening on Good Friday. The houses and the streets are illuminated with candles that are placed on the windowsills. During the Parata, two neighbouring villages visit one another. The inhabitants of the host village line up on either side of the streets along the walls of the houses to form two rows. In this way, they welcome the procession from their neighbouring village. After having all sung the religious chants together, they head to the other village.
Easter in Corsica is also the opportunity to sample our gastronomy, to enjoy the tastes of our terroir and to share in our culinary traditions.
You can enjoy chickpea and garlic soup and lasagne with brocciu cheese or cod stew with white beans that is traditionally on the menu when celebrating Good Friday.
Dishes made with chickpeas, stews, soups and beignets made with chickpea flour known as "panzarotti" or "fritelli di ceci", are always the traditional Corsican delicacies served during religious feast days, because the Bible tells us that Christ crossed a field where these legumes were being grown on his way into Jerusalem.
On Easter Sunday, you can sample a wonderful kid goat that has been gently roasted or a lamb stew known as « piverunata d’agnellu ».
For desert, there is the ever present cacavellu or campanile depending on the region, which is sweet bread in the form of a crown or a bell, flavoured with anise andeau-de-vie. Whole hard boiled eggs are placed onto the cake mixture before it is baked.
This dish marks the end of Lent, using up all the eggs that remained un-eaten during this fasting period. And yes, during the 40 days of Lent it was traditionally forbidden to eat eggs although the hens carried on laying. According to legend, the eggs from this cake were offered to children in order to symbolise life and hope. This tradition still remains, but today the eggs that are used in the cacavelli are not only eaten by children, but are also used in the merendella, a picnic that takes place on Easter Monday.
So that you can celebrate Easter the way it should be, here is our recipe for cacavellu