Europe gathered in Sordevolo in the name of the Passion of Christ. The international Conference for Europassion has been just closed in the Piedmont village of Sordevolo where, every five years, is performed one of the greatest popular play in the world. There is a great tradition in all Europe about the performance of the Passion of Christ. Nowadays plenty of European towns play a Passion; to them we have to add the several processions of the Ways of the Cross, organized during the Holy Week. The wide movement formed by the groups of the Passion in East and West Europe, called EUROPASSION, was born around 20 years ago. But some towns, organizers of a play of the Passion, peculiarly in Italy, such as Sordevolo, had already been in friendly contact for a long time before. The idea to form an association of all these groups, coming from East and West Europe, was born almost 30 years ago and brought to the establishment of EUROPASSION. One of the founder was Maurice Clos, from the Paris district of Menilmontant, died aged 98 on 2009. On Saturday 11th took place by Città Studi in Biella the main meeting of the Conference “Europassion 2015”; special guest was Card. Tarcisio Bertone, for the occasion accommodated in Sordevolo where, during the weekends, the holy play of the Passion of Christ, turning now the age of 200 years, is performed.
The associated groups are very different, from Oberammergau (Bavaria) where, since 1633 every 10 years during all summer people play their Passion born as a vow to thank God to have been protected from the plague, collecting 500.000 spectators; to Scinnenza by Caltanissetta (Sicily), where the traditional play takes place every year since 1780 during the Holy Week, up to Tegelen (Nederlands) where the performers belong to different faiths.
History of Europassion
The history of Europassion begins on May 1982 when a meeting of French Passion organizers from Loudéac, Nancy, Massevaux and their Spanish colleagues from Esparreguera, Olesa de Montserrat and Ulldecona takes place in ESPARREGUERA (Spain). The idea to create an association of all towns from different country where a Passion is played is born by the monastery in Monserrat and a project is done.
The first official international meeting is held in Loudeac (France) on 1984 with 10 delegations. During the meeting is written a Charter of the new born organization, whose name will be EUROPASSION.
On 1989, on the occasion of the 75° anniversary of the LOUDEAC group, sixteen French and Spanish speaking groups take part in a meeting, whose task is “to start the job’. First of all they underline the will to preserve peculiarity and originality of each group, with reciprocal self-respect, avoiding to judge the different ways to play.
The organizers regularly exchange advertising leaflets, photos and short films. On mutual desire they issue a journal, called LEVATE, whose edition is granted by LOUDEAC for three times. The intent of EUROPASSION is not to realize, a uniform future performance of the Passion, as its richness is its variety.
On 1990 the meeting takes place in MASEVEAUX where, for the first time, groups from Germany are also invited. The common desire is to create a logo; the secretariat is given to Loudéac.
Always on the same year an international meeting is hold in OTIGHEIM (Germany) and, for the first time, some groups coming from Austria take part to.
On 1991 thirteen organizers coming from six different countries meet in ST. MARGARETHEN (Austria).
On 1992 twenty-six groups are invited in PARIS-MENILMONTANT (France). Among them, as new entries, there are groups coming from East Europe (Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Czech Republic) because, after the fall of Communism, their resolution is to bring the tradition of the Passion to life again. To them a moral and financial aid is granted.
On 1993 the town of SOMMERSDORF (Germany) welcomes twenty-seven groups from 12 European countries for a friendly meeting. On 1994 eighteen delegations meet in CERVERA (Spain) while representatives of several countries meet in NANCY (France) to lay the foundation of the Pan- European Association of the Passion Theatre.
During the meeting organized on 1995 in LIGNY (Belgium) the twenty-seven delegations coming from 12 countries write a statute of foundation of EUROPASSION, association of the European groups organizers of the Passion theatre. The document of establishment is prepared and carefully discussed. Mr. Josef Lang from Auersmacher becomes its General Secretary and Ligny is chosen as seat of Europassion.
On 1996 thirty-four delegations coming from 12 countries reach St. Margharethen (Austria) to sign the document of establishment of the association, born with the following tasks
To announce the words of Christ through the performance of the Passion.
To promote human and cultural relations among towns organizers of the Passion theatre
To help an exchange of experience among the groups and a discussion on basic questions tied to the interpretation of the Passion, but without blaming the variety of expressions used of the groups to perform the Passion.
To stimulate every kind of religious theatre or sacred play, whose most important theme is the passion of Christ.
To organize friendly reciprocal relations of the groups.
Passion of Sordevolo
Each Passion has its own style, its peculiarity often very similar to the tradition, its own context and its charm. In the outline of the sacred plays the one performed in Sordevolo, small village of around 1300 inhabitants in province of Biella, is really unique. The reason is in the fact that it’s a real theatre play, seriously brought on the stage by all people of the community, children included, in the amphitheatre realized on this purpose ten years ago. The play is hold during all Summer every five years and brings to Sordevolo 40 thousand spectators. It is 200 years old but its origin is far more distant.
Between the end of the XV century and the fist part of the XVI the Compagnia del Gonfalone performed in the Colosseum in Rom a text of the Passion. The text was published in Rom on 1500-1501. It was composed by the Florentine Giuliano Dati; some centuries later it arrived to Sordevolo thanks to the relation between the family Ambrosetti, important local manufacturers and the Papal Court.
Here are some details about the play:
200 years of “Passione”
400 performers (42 spoken roles and 360 walking people) from 5 to 80 years old.
300 people “behind the stage”
40 performances in 100 days, among them 3 completely performed by children.
29 scenes compose the play that lasts for more than two hours.
4000 square meters of amphitheatre.
During all Summer people of the whole village become a theatrical company: workers and professionals, shopkeepers and clerks, retired people and students, all of them strictly volunteers and obviously living in Sordevolo , set up a play, a unique one of this type in Italy, performed by amateur-actors, youngs and not-young; they work and prepare themselves during several months before, with strong seriousness and commitment, to the great event.
The entire scenography, realized by the inhabitants with their own means and competence, rebuilds in the wide amphitheatre a corner of Jerusalem in the 33 a.C.:
Herod’s palace, the Sanhedrin, Pilate’s Preaetorium, the Garden of Gethsemane, the last Supper room, the mount Calvary.
On 2015 the Passione di Sordevolo has obtained the Patronage from the Papal Commission for the Church Cultural Heritage, from the Presidency of the Senate of Republic, from the Archdiocese of Milan and from the Committee Organizers of the Holy Shroud Ostension 2015 in Turin.
It will be a particular edition of the play, that will bring Sordevolo and all Piedmont in the middle of religious and cultural tourist tours: it’ll occur at the same time of the event organized in Turin for the Bicentenary of Don Bosco birth, with the arrival in Piedmont of hundreds of thousand Italian and foreign tourists. However devotional ways are not news to Biella, lying at the foot of the stately Holy Shrine of the Black Virgin Mary of Oropa. This one is an imposant and often very crowded place where hundred of years of religious history are represented; its Sacro Monte is included in the list of the Unesco World Heritage. Some fitted paths have also been open on the traces of the via Francigena, the old way followed by pilgrims.
It worth to remember the “Passione dei Bambini”, entirely played by the local children, completely performed in the same way the “Passione” is. (three dates fixed on the calendar).
The Passione di Sordevolo has not only a daily and immediate worth, it must be seen as a continuation of a work born several century ago and has to be an example for the future generations. The rules undersigned by the Committee impose to give the net proceeds to charitable institutions.
For the first time on 2015 several groups of spectators coming from USA arrived to Sordevolo, thanks to the cooperation with the tour operator “Central Holydays”