Experience Ancient Traditional Easter in Tadasuni, Sardinia

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

Tadasuni is a tiny village in central Sardinia. One of those sleepy hamlets where nothing ever happens. Except for Easter. When Easter approaches, the town returns to life and its residents team up to help the young parish priest Don Antonio organize a traditional Sardinian Easter just like their ancestors used to.

The ceremonies of Easter in Tadasuni are some of the most traditional in Sardinia, so if you are on the island around this time of the year, you can make it a point to join the locals at least one day.

Like in most places in Sardinia and Italy, the main celebrations for Easter are all happening in the Holy Week, so from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Easter in Tadasuni, however, bears its own traditions and rituals that I suggest including in your experiences on the island.

“Many traditions are being lost. I believe that our Holy Week has nothing to envy from other Holy Weeks, it’s just that other towns have more resources to advertise the event. Small villages like Tadasuni have fewer resources, but that doesn’t mean that things are not done well. On the contrary, you can feel dedication, commitment and above all, prayer. Among tourists, some are more curious about traditions but also those who are more believers, Catholics and who perhaps would like to experience Easter in a more intimate way as well as see rites carried out differently from how they are performed in their cities and joining the prayer of our people in our small realities”, Don Antonio told us. And we agree.

If you have limited time and many places on your bucket list, try at least to see one or two of these rituals to appreciate Sardinia’s traditional side. This article entirely devoted to Easter in Tadasuni will make it easier for you to decide which ceremonies you wish to join and how long you would like to spend in the area.

Image: Mass of Palm Sunday in Tadasuni, Sardinia.

Easter in Tadasuni – How to see the ceremonies step-by-step

Preparation for Palm Sunday

The person in charge of organizing the ceremonies directly helping the priest, in Tadasuni, is called “obriere” of San Nicola, the saint the local church is devoted to. The “obriere” will be in charge of finding the palms and the Friday before Palm Sunday, known as “Passion Friday”, he will organize the weaving of the palms taking place in the rooms of the parish by the hand of local men.

We have seen the preparation of the palms, a few men of the town teamed up and started weaving the palms while local women brought them wine and seasonal pastries.

Image: Decorated palms in Sardinia.

Palm Sunday – March 24th, 2024

The Sunday before Easter in Italy marks the beginning of the Holy Week to commemorate Jesus’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. In Sardinia, this is celebrated with finely decorated palm branches and small olive branches handed out to the townspeople once they are blessed by Don Antonio at the beginning of the mass.

In Tadasuni, Palm Sunday starts with the priest and the men of the confraternity making their way to the church of Santa Croce near the main parish of San Nicola. In Santa Croce, the worshippers will gather to commemorate the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem. (When we went, it was pouring so this step was skipped and we all met directly in the main San Nicola church.)

The religious procession is opened by a member of the confraternity followed by the parish cross adorned with palm and olive branches and a purple veil. Right behind are Don Antonio and the rest of the confraternity. At this point, the priest rings his small bell and begins the celebration of the Mass by addressing the worshippers and sprinkling the decorated branches with blessed water.

During the function, the priest gives each worshipper (us included!) a palm branch and one of the small bundles called in the local dialect “sos mazzuleddos“. These are little bunches of local herbs that include rosemary, hyssop, hoary stock, and lesser calamint and that will be used for the Foot Washing, another important ritual of the Holy Week.

Image: Foot washing on Maundy Thursday in the celebrations of Easter in Tadasuni.

Giovedì Santo (Maundy Thursday)

In the celebrations of Easter in Tadasuni, we move fast forward to Maundy Thursday, the day that starts what in Italy we call “triduo pasquale” (Paschal Triduum). Once again, the “obriere” of San Nicola is in charge. He prepares the table (su lavabu in the Sardinian language) for the ritual of the Foot Washing. The table will be dressed with a specific cloth and on top they will place the wine, twelve breads, twelve oranges, twelve bitter herbs, and a small bag containing 30 coins.

The “mazzuleddos” herbal bunches handed out on Palm Sunday will play a pivotal role together with “sa lisia“, Sardinian for lye made with sifted ash, three “mazzuleddos” of the previous year, and water. Once the Mass of the day is over, the priest approaches the members of the confraternity chosen for the ritual and proceeds by pouring the lye on their feet with the herbal bunches and drying them.

Once the function of Maundy Thursday is over, the confraternity starts the procession towards the church of Santa Croce with the holy cross, and behind them are the priest and the rest of the townspeople. Here, the minister and the members of the confraternity sit around the table prepared by the “obriere” of San Nicola with bread and wine. The priest blesses them and offers them to the confraternity as a recreation of Jesus’ last supper.

Image: Last supper in Tadasuni Easter in Sardinia.

Good Friday in Tadasuni’s Holy Week (Venerdì Santo)

We are finally on Good Friday and, surprise surprise, in Tadasuni they don’t perform the ritual of the Stations of the Cross like in many other parts of Sardinia and Italy, including in Rome, where is celebrated by the pope in the Colosseum.

In ancient times, two men were chosen among the townspeople to play the role of “the Jews” in charge of the ritual known as “S’iscravamentu”, when they would take the dead Jesus off the cross. In more recent times, however, this has been done by two chosen members of the confraternity.

Image: Jesus on the cross in Tadasuni for Easter, Sardinia.

But first thing first. The religious commemoration starts at noon with the ritual of “S’incravamentu“, when Jesus is put on the cross, his face covered with a purple veil that will be taken off in the evening. The stretcher of the dead Christ will be adorned with herbal ornaments and the grieving Mary will be covered with a black veil.

Sticking to a very ancient custom, on this day, the Church doesn’t celebrate any Sacrament except for the Penance and the Anointing of the sick. During the celebration of the Mass, the altar is completely unadorned, and after the function is the rite of taking the dead Jesus off the cross.

Image: Dead Jesus on the stretcher after S'iscravamentu for Easter in Tadasuni.

The lights of the church will be off and the two men playing the role of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus will sit in front of the cross in prayer and will kneel in front of the Mother to ask for permission to depose her Son. Step by step, they pull out the crown of thorns, all the nails, and finally, the body itself carried around in front of the Mother first and then among the townspeople to be worshipped.

Image: Dead Jesus is shown to the Lady of Sorrows

Finally, Christ is laid down on the stretcher where he is covered with a black veil, and myrrh and aloe incense is burnt to reminisce the scent used to prepare Jesus for burial.

Once these religious rituals are concluded, the parish priest, the confraternity, and the worshippers go on a procession across town with the cross, the dead Jesus, and the grieving Mary, chanting a sort of lament all the way. The streets are adorned with lit-up candles and black drapes as a sign of mourning.

Holy Saturday (Sabato Santo)

This is a day of mourning and during the Easter Vigil, the confraternity is in charge of ringing the bells of the church, lit up the Easter candles, and taking off the veil covering all the statues of the church. The door and the interior will be specifically adorned to celebrate the vigil and prepare for the resurrection.

Easter Sunday in Tadasuni

The first ritual happening on Easter Sunday is called in Sardinia “S’incontru“, standing for the encounter, the meeting between Christ and the grieving Mother. From the two opposite ends of the street, the two statues move forward slowly and kneel three times.

When they are facing each other, the parish priest takes off the veil of the Mother of Sorrows. At this meaningful gesture, the church bells ring in celebration and local men blank-fire their rifles.

Once the procession is over, the Easter Mass starts regularly as prescribed by the liturgy. Again, the priest asks the townspeople to adorn the streets of the procession with candles and white and red drapes as a sign of celebration for the resurrected Christ. Where the encounter between Christ and the Mother happens, a carpet of flowers will be laid out.

Tips for planning your trip to Tadasuni for Easter

Whether you are interested in all the rituals of Holy Week and Easter in Tadasuni or just some, my advice is to book your accommodation in the area anyway. There are no hotels in Tadasuni, but various accommodations are available in Ghilarza, a small village less than 5 kilometers away.

To visit Sardinia you need a car, which you can rent upon arrival at the airport, if you are not coming with your own by ferry. Staying overnight in the area is convenient not only to get to Tadasuni when the Easter rites are on the calendar but also because being the center of the island, many landmarks are easily reachable, including several archaeological sites such as the Nuraghe Losa, the Sacred Well of Santa Cristina and Su Nuraxi of Barumini.

On the other hand, if you are looking where to eat, in Tadasuni itself there is a good restaurant that meat lovers won’t want to miss, Brasia BBQ Agricolo along Corso Impero. If you are in Ghilarza at lunch or dinner time, among the best restaurants are Al Marchi (Piazza Eleonora) and Valparaiso (Via Gennargentu).

Leave a Comment