The Holy Week processions in Mendrisio, in the southern canton of Ticino, have been awarded UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status, the second such accolade for the country in a week.
The art of scaling high mountain peaks in the Alps, known as alpinism, was given the coveted label on Wednesday. It was a joint application by mountaineering and guide communities in France, Italy and Switzerland.
Intangible cultural heritage status celebrates well-known traditions, art forms and practices.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is currently holding is annual meeting in Bogota, Colombiaexternal link. The Swiss government announced Mendrisio’s news in a statementexternal link on Thursday evening.
“The processions tell the story of the passion, a tradition which is handed down through the generations and for which special lanterns and illuminated pictures are created,” it said.
Mendrisio’s processions take place every year on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and attract thousands of spectators. They feature hundreds of participants. On Good Friday, inhabitants young and old carry ceremonial objects and walk through the old town to the sound of funereal music. During the processions, translucent paintings illuminated from the inside and mounted onto frames light the streets of the town.
The pictures are made according to a technique that dates back to the 18th century and are “a speciality of the Mendrisio processions”, the statement said. A key element of the candidacy had been maintaining the knowledge on how to repair and make these pictures.
The handing down of the tradition through the generations was also important. “This is done through the cooperation between the region’s schools, having a museum for the illuminated pictures and the educational material prepared for the children,” the statement said.
Other intangible status holders
Switzerland has also won UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status for the art of dry-stone walling, the Vevey Winegrowers’ Festival and the Basel Carnival. A joint application with France to recognise watchmaking art and mechanics is pending.
The Swiss government is also interested in filing applications for yodelling, the alpine pasture season and graphic and typographic design.
swissinfo.ch/Swiss government statement/ilj