Coronavirus fails to dampen the spirits of Good Friday enthusiasts

For 20 years Marco Agius and his son Clayton have been putting up a Good Friday exhibition. KURT SANSONE talks to them after the pandemic put a damper on this year’s plans

The crucifix that was to be displayed by Clayton and his father Marco (inset) for the first time this year. Good Friday exhibitions have been cancelled as part of the country's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus
The crucifix that was to be displayed by Clayton and his father Marco (inset) for the first time this year. Good Friday exhibitions have been cancelled as part of the country's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus

Clayton Agius has just put in the finishing touches on a collection of small religious statues depicting the passion of Christ on display at his parents’ house.

The statues are but a fraction of a much bigger collection of statues and antique crucifixes that the 27-year-old has been exhibiting for the past three years to commemorate Holy Week.

But this year, he will have to contend with a downscaled exhibition to be enjoyed only by himself and his family.

Good Friday exhibitions have joined the myriad of other religious, cultural and artistic events that have been cancelled as the country pitches in their efforts to contain the virus.

The situation has soured the morale of enthusiasts like Clayton and his father Marco, 53.

Preparations for this year’s exhibition would have started just after Good Friday of last year, with the father and son team already brainstorming new themes and artefacts to put on display.

“It is annoying after all the work we would have put in, but the circumstances are what they are and like everybody else we have to obey the instructions given by the health authorities and the church,” Clayton tells me over the phone.

This year was to be a special one because it marks 20 years since his father first started an exhibition with life size figures depicting scenes from Christ’s passion.

“For enthusiasts like me it is a disappointment to miss the chance of putting up the exhibition but health comes first… what I do is take photos of the exhibits at home and in the warehouse to share with people on Facebook,” Marco tells me.

Social media helps Marco keep in touch with fellow enthusiasts, friends and family. And in the midst of all the glum news he also finds the time to joke about the situation.

Marco captioned a photo of the scene depicting Christ in the Gethsemane being approached by Judas with the words: ‘Keep one metre away from me’.

It is his way of trying to make sense of this trying moment for everyone.

This year’s surprise was going to be a large crucifix dating back hundreds of years that Clayton recently had restored. “It will have to wait until next year,” he says, in a resigned tone.

But the situation has not stopped him and his father from still engaging in their passion for Good Friday exhibitions. With a giggle, he tells me that he removed all the wall frames at his parents’ house and hung up a few of the 200 or so crucifixes he has in his collection.

“My mother was very confused about all the frames stored behind the sofa,” he says, pointing out that a 300-year-old wooden crucifix that started his collection enjoys pride of place in their home.

The coronavirus may have stopped exhibitions and religious functions but it hasn’t dampened Clayton’s passion for his hobby. But for him and his father this is not just about statues. It is also about creating the right atmosphere to help them meditate during this important time for Christians.

“In the evening, my father and I play funerary marches and Gregorian chants, we switch off the lights and put on the candles, and in that quiet have a few words between us. It helps us get into the spirit of these religious days,” he tells me.

Clayton and Marco represent hundreds, if not thousands, of other enthusiasts who would be engaged in Good Friday exhibitions and pageants over the coming days.

Those plans have all been scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic as restrictions keep people inside and away from each other.

In the warehouse where they store their statues and artefacts, Clayton and Marco have erected the crucifix that was to be displayed for the first time this year.

“When we are in the warehouse for a couple of hours in the evening we leave the door ajar, blocked off by a wooden board so nobody can enter and if anybody passes by they can have a look inside,” Clayton says.

He hopes a glimpse of the crucifix will help people get into the Good Friday mood and meditate but admits very few pass by these days.

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