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Tradition Swiss Easter processions in running for cultural heritage status

Inhabitants walk through the town

The traditional Good Friday procession features inhabitants carrying lanterns through streets lit up by paintings mounted onto frames.


Switzerland has nominated a religious practice for inclusion on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. The Federal Office of Culture submitted the historic Easter processions of Mendrisio in canton Ticino to the UN body on Tuesday.

The processions at Mendrisio, which take place on Holy Thursday and Good Friday each year, feature hundreds of participants re-enacting Christ’s passion through the Stations of the Cross. On Good Friday, inhabitants young and old carry ceremonial objects and walk through the old town to the sound of funereal music in a tradition whose rules were set down in the 18th century. During the processions, translucent paintings illuminated from the inside and mounted onto frames light the streets of the town.

Countries can submit just one tradition for inclusion each year, although together with France and Italy, Switzerland is also part of a trinational nomination, this one for alpinism. Other traditions shortlisted by the Swiss government include graphic design and typography, management of avalanche risks, the alpine pasture season, mechanical know-how in watch-making, and yodelling. To date UNESCO has included the Winegrowers’ Festival in Vevey, canton Vaud, and the Basel Carnival on its intangible cultural heritage list.

A decision from UNESCO regarding the Mendrisio Easter processions is expected in November 2019.

Easter procession in Mendrisio 'My life has changed!'

Several characteristics distinguish the centuries-old historical processions in the holy week leading up to Easter from similar representations.


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