Malta’s black procession and a mysterious reliquary linked to the Passion returns after 140 years

After 140 years, the Inquisitor Palace’s chapel received a historical reliquary with the revival of the Black Procession in Vittoriosa

Penitents carry the large crucifix during the Black Procession
Penitents carry the large crucifix during the Black Procession

The hooded penintents of the Black Procession have returned to the Maltese pageantry of Easter, after a Good Friday procession was revived 140 years later.

The old streets of Vittoriosa witnessed the revival of the Black Procession and the re-enactment of the “translation” – the transfer of relics from one place to another – of a highly venerated reliquary.

This procession had been discontinued in 1879 by Bishop Carmelo Scicluna after he ordered that only one Good Friday procession may be held in each parish.

‘Il-Purċissjoni s-Sewda’ used to involve the participation of several people, men and women, all dressed in black, who were either penitents or else doing a penitence, sometimes by enduring severe sacrifices during the procession
‘Il-Purċissjoni s-Sewda’ used to involve the participation of several people, men and women, all dressed in black, who were either penitents or else doing a penitence, sometimes by enduring severe sacrifices during the procession

The Vittoriosa Good Friday Commission led the procession in collaboration with Heritage Malta.

‘Il-Purċissjoni s-Sewda’ used to involve the participation of several people, men and women, all dressed in black, who were either penitents or else doing a penitence, sometimes by enduring severe sacrifices during the procession. Even the participating confraternity members used to dress in black.

The procession of the reliquary
The procession of the reliquary

According to Filippo Cipriani, secretary to the Inquisitor Paolo Passionei, it was Fr Mikiel Grima, a great devotee of the Passion of Christ, who collected the various sacred relics which form the renowned reliquary. He spent two years searching for them across Rome and all of them have a connection to the Passion of Christ. This reliquary arrived in Malta in 1753 on the insistence of the Inquisitor Paolo Passionei and it was welcomed with much celebrations, both at the Inquisitor’s Palace and at St Lawrence’s Parish Church, both in Vittoriosa. Up to this day, the reliquary retains considerable devotion.

The reliquary is received at the Inquisitor's Palace
The reliquary is received at the Inquisitor's Palace

After 140 years, the Inquisitor Palace’s chapel received again this historical reliquary which was left exclusively exposed to visitors along the day. During the evening, members of the Collegiate Chapter of St Lawrence gathered at this chapel to recite prayers and then carry the reliquary throughout the procession. Confraternity members led the procession, followed by the reliquary, and a huge crucifix which was carried by a number of individuals with hooded faces.

A considerable crowd participated in this procession which ended at St Lawrence’s Parish Church for the Holy Blessing in front of the reliquary.

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