The lamps

The lamps

The lamps carried during Good Friday's nighttime procession were originally made of paper ― they were rarely made of other materials, such as coloured glass ― until around 1790 when Bagutti introduced the technique used for the transparents. Over the years the lamps acquired the most diverse shapes, such as, to cite Piero Bianconi, "diamond-shaped polyhedrons, hexagons, octagons, scalloped cubes, oblong multifaceted pumpkins, closed umbrellas, sinuous serpent-like crosses, cylinders, globes, pyramids, stars and spheres." Only a few specimens of this extensive selection have survived, produced between late 1700 and late 1800, as modern carpenters are unable to produce similar frames. Indeed, the new lamps, produced from the mid-1900s onwards, have linear geometrical lines without curves as, for instance, stars.

The first lamps painted by Giovan Battista Bagutti (probably already in 1798) are the series of the so-called 8 trapezoidal “vases,” which are carried around the statue of the Dead Christ. They present paintings of some episodes of the Way of the Cross, and are identical on the two long sides, while in 1796 the Municipality wanted the short sides to have the court of arms of the Town impressed on them, as evidence of the municipality's involvement (economic too) in the procession.

The series depicting the Seven Sorrows of Mary were almost certainly produced during the same years. Bagutti's style can be barely recognised in them, since they were perhaps later copies or paintings of his workshop. In these lamps, the short sides present, as in many others, the banner of the Servants of Mary, precisely an S interwoven with an M, which is also visible on the keystone of the beautiful entrance door to the convent.

Yet others can almost certainly be dated between late 1700 and early 1800, like the so-called octagonal “balloons” or the large “ovals” with holy figures and symbols, which are traditionally placed at the centre of an introductory trio to the various groups, along with the high and long “multiple banners” presenting shapes that are at times bizarre. Many new ones were made for the 1898 reorganisation, especially large crosses, each with different shapes and dimensions, enhanced by a few figures alternated with the ornaments. Many of these can be attributed to Silvio Gilardi (Brè 1873 – Mendrisio 1943).

Towards 1950 it became necessary to double certain groups in order to meet the demands of those who wanted to participate. Hence the Way of the Cross was produced by Giuseppe Bolzani (Bellinzona 1921 – Mendrisio 2002), and yet others were created by Gino Macconi. Apart from the large lamps or in small clusters, all the modern ones only present floral decorations, initials or symbols.

Beside the lamps we also notice the actual "Instruments of the Passion." From the smallest (nails and hammers) to the largest made of golden wood, they recall some moments of the evangelical story, precisely the bag containing the thirty coins of Judas Iscariot, the gloved hand that slapped Jesus before the High Priest, the cock of perjury that announced Peter's betrayal, the crown of thorns, Veronica's veil, the titulus crucis, the dice used by the soldiers to divide Christ's tunic, and the sponge soaked in acidic wine that was offered to Jesus in agony on the cross. The group is completed with a Brother at the centre carrying the half pillar Jesus was tied to during the flagellation. There are two series, one of which certainly dates back to 1600 and presents objects featuring remarkable workmanship. It is called “large” because the objects are larger and there are many of them. The other one, which is carried by “little friars” (children dressed up as Capuchin friars), is less precious and smaller.

Finally, we observe the parade of objects that have nothing to do with the processions, specifically two series of “placards” painted with silver frames depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary (in corsivo) (and are, therefore, consistent with this Confraternity) and those of the Blessed Sacrament, respectively. It is obvious that the confraternities wanted to underscore their presence even by displaying signs that could barely be discerned in the nighttime semi-darkness.

Finally, we find other “signs” among the various groups, such as decorated sticks, banners, decorated clubs, and flags in a variety of shapes and colours.