The Holy Week in Alghero - a mystical Catalan event

Updated on Sep 11, 2019 by Kevin Sunch

Blog > The Holy Week in Alghero - a mystical Catalan event

Planning to visit Sardinia in April? Benefit from going to Alghero and seeing one of the most extraordinary events in all of Sardinia: The Holy Week.

This piece is written by Kevin, our latest Sardinia intern who has spent the majority of his life living in Alghero.

Located in North-West Sardinia, L’Alguer (from Catalan dialect, Alghero) has plenty of archaeological sites and offers many cultural visits, beyond its fabulous beaches with turquoise-coloured water. The peculiarity of this little town derives from its connection with Spain, precisely with Catalonia, the reason why Alghero is nicknamed “little Barcelona”. In fact, the history of this fantastic place dates back to the 14th century, when the Kingdom of Catalonia & Aragon came to its closest part of Sardinia, the North-West coast, and began its domination of the whole island.

But in Alghero - the first strategic point for the Spanish - all the population had been expelled and replaced with people from Catalonia. This is why Catalan dialect is only spoken in Alghero, even now! The Catalan influence has remained, among the parlance, the old-town street names with double translation and above all, the traditions of Alghero. One of these, perhaps the most evocative one, is the Holy Week in the Catalanized town.

Street name in the Old Town translated in Catalan (first picture)

Catalan congregation during the Holy Friday Procession (second picture)

Image Credit: Mauro Morittu

Attended by a big part of the island population, this religious celebration is nowadays part of the Sardinian culture. After the Palm Sunday, the moment when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, the Holy Week begins. Alghero changes its environment into a mystery atmosphere, adjusting all the old-quarter lighting, that turns into a spiritual red to call to mind the Passion of Christ.

Procession with mystical red-and-black atmosphere

Image Credit: Mauro Morittu

The Holy Week in Alghero exists from the Catalan domination period, accurately since 1600, the year when the sea brought a wooden Christ, which became a veneration object and crux of the “Setmana Santa de l’Alguer” (Alghero’s Holy week, in Catalan). During the week, different celebrations take place in the suggestive fortress and ancient churches of the old town, maintaining Catalan traditions, using dresses and rituals from the Spanish folklore. The main recurring events, the Holy Thursday, Friday and Easter Day, are followed by the entire population of Alghero, and by many Sardinians, who come from several parts of this magnificent island. This is the reason that this unique ceremony is now part of Sardinian culture, not only a religious celebration.

The Holy Friday at St. Mary's Cathedral

Image Credit: Mauro Morittu

The Holy Friday procession, a commemoration of Christ’s death, is the most crowded celebration of the week. Starting from St. Mary’s Cathedral, this event transforms all the town. Black-dressed people marching by with red torches, recalling the black dress of Mary – a sign of bereavement - and the red lights displayed in the whole town. Many congregations come from Catalonia to keep this connection with Alghero. This frightening atmosphere ends with a dying-Christ resting for three days in the Church of Mercy.

Black-dressed Mary

Image Credit: Mauro Morittu

Easter Day is when Christ’s Mother meets with her resurrected son; in Alghero, this meeting settles in Piazza dello Sventramento, all accompanied by locals shooting bullets to the sky, a sign of happiness for this reunion.

If you’re going to Sardinia in April, you should visit Alghero and its Catalan influence, especially during the Easter period, when the climate is moderate and the beaches are not so jampacked.

So… get catalanized in one of the most particular and stunning towns of Italy!


Find more on: Sardinia's Festival & Events & Sardinia's Special Offers.


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