Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is event-full too! At 6am there is a kind of “show” in one of the most central churches, the Panagia ton Xenon. They read from the Bible and when they reach the part where it describes the earthquake that was felt before Christ’s resurrection, they shut the doors and lights and they start banging everything (the temple, the chandelier, the seats) in remembrance of the event.

Then at 9am is the most important for the Corfiots event of the week! Even I manage never to sleep through my alarm!!!!

It is the procession of the epitaph of St. Spyridon, patron Saint of Corfu. Legend has it that at some point in the late 1500’s the Venetian rulers forbid the Orthodox Corfiots to make any Orthodox Easter celebrations/events. So the Corfiots “came up” (the way I see it) with a miracle that the patron saint did and saved Corfu, in this way they managed to organise a procession to honour him. They took permission and went along with the procession, it was just that behind St. Spyridon’s mummy they also carried the epitaph, bare and undecorated, so that it wouldn’t get spotted by the Venetians! Since then, the epitaph procession of St. Spyridon church comes out not on Good Friday, but on Holy Saturday, along with the mummy of the Saint.

Palia playing the ‘Amleto’ at Liston

To the Corfiots this is the most “personal” procession. Among us,  this procession is known as the “Amletos”, a term coined by the musical piece called “Hamlet” that the ‘Palia’ Philharmonic performs here. So music again is crucial, maybe more than in any other procession, if that is possible. The 3 town bands and the other orgs come again in numbers and the bands perform their best pieces of music of the week. The morning is almost always serene and the colours are vibrant. Music just spreads in the streets and piazzas of Corfu and sets a tone for the rest of the day.

There are plenty of youtube videos from the ‘Amletos’ procession music and I include some samples here.

I start with an edited video which includes small clips of all the bands performing at Liston. Check it out to get a taste of the music and then watch the other videos below, where each video includes each piece in its entirety. Again, all clips are taken by individuals in the streets listening to the music, no professional recordings can be found anywhere on this site… I hope you don’t mind…

Below are videos of the bands at the same ‘Amletos’ procession, this time each video presents each band’s entire piece. The videos are presented here in the order of appearance of each band within the procession. Therefore, the first video shows the Capodistrias Philharmonic and is taken from the spot I always watch this procession. This spot is known among Corfios as the “Sygkritiki” (meaning, the Comparative), because there is space for us listeners to actually walk along with all the bands in order to hear the pieces in their entirety and so make the comparison as to who played better this year!!!

The Capodistrias performs: Bethoven’s “Heroic”

Mantzaros: “Calde Lacrime” by De Michelli

and ‘Palia’: “Hamlet” by Faccio

(the video starts with the preceding Choir and then the Philharmonic starts)

Then at 11am, we celebrate the ’1st Anastasi’ (Resurrection). For Corfu this is the end of lent and mourning.

Palia playing ‘Greki’ on Holy Saturday morning. Photo by Stamatis Katapodis

There are 2 things that happen in Corfu then. At 11 o’clock then, with the sound of the St Spyridon bells, we throw from our windows ceramic pots filled with water, that we call them “botis”. There are different version as to the provenance of this custom. One has it that in Ancient Greece the used to break pots at funerals in order to scare away bad spirits. The Christian version of this custom is that it is probably an interpretation of the Bible’s event description when Maria Magdalena went to Christ’s tomb and found it open, she dropped the pot she was carrying. There are other versions as well. Whatever it may be, at 11 o’clock am there is mayhem!!!! Here is a clip from that:

People then go to collect pieces that are meant to bring good luck.

After that, the bands go around town again, this time with happy music called “Greki”. They pass by the main sites of the old town and before they finish, each band goes by the other two bands’ “homes” to “salute” them, where they play their full piece to them. ‘Palia’ plays some other joyful and fun tunes.

At this point, it is also the first time that you clap to the bands… kind of thank you guys….

Alas, nothing happens for a few hours after that…….!

It all starts again at 10pm where the Corfu priesthood officially receives the holy light from Jerusalem. The reception ceremony takes place in Liston with all 3 bands of course. They all musicafully go to the Catholic Cathedral where they hold their Easter Vigil since 8pm (as I said earlier, no matter when the Catholic Easter is, in Corfu we celebrate it, again, together with the Orthodox).The Catholic Archibishop receives the Light and continues the Leitourgia till 11pm, when they join the Orthodox event. So after having given the Light, the Orthodox prienthood & the bands continue to the St. Paraskevi Church where they hold their Easter Vigil till 11:40pm.

At 11:40 pm the priesthood & the bands come to the main square of town, the Esplanade, where all people are gathered and they continue there the “Christos Anesti” part of the thing at midnight. And then the fireworks begin!!!! The whole place is lit with candles on the ground and fireworks in the air…. It is a really beautiful spectacle!

Here is a video taken from the top of the Old Fortress overlooking the Esplanade square where we are all gathered with our candles for the ‘Anastasi’ (Resurrection). Meaning that all the flickering lights you see down below are people holding their lit candles:

Music of course is central to everything and all the town bands accompany the Resurrection (Anastasi) event. They accompany the priests to the square square and then, as they leave, they go around Liston one more time before returning to their respective homes…. By 1am Easter Sunday that is…

Here is a clip of that:

Next day: Click here for events on Easter Sunday

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