An hour away from Agrigento in Sicily, there is a small town called San Biagio Platani. During Easter, this little town becomes known for the Archi di Pane (Arches made of Bread) or di Pasqua (Easter Arches) which decorate the main street of the town. The city’s streets are taken over by elaborately constructed archways, domes, bells and religious artworks.
In the months before Easter, the two major historical confraternities of San Biagio, the Madunnara and Signurara, work to create a massive piece of public folk art. Using only natural materials to decorate the streets with arches, each material has religious and natural symbolism, such as bamboo, weeping willow, asparagus, laurel leaves, rosemary, cereals, dates and bread.
The series of decorated archways become increasingly elaborate as they reach the central part of the town, which becomes the focal point of the Easter Sunday procession as the Madonna and the resurrected Christ meet at precisely the center of the decorations.
This traditional, cultural exhibition was born in the 18th century and was first recorded in 1766. The Arches are arranged so that the main arch represents the entrance of a church. More arches on both sides of the main street represent the nave, while the final arch is the asp of the “church.” Decorations represent Biblical events which intend to honor the Risen Christ.
Usually the exhibition lasts for three weeks after Easter, but in order to preserve their work, a museum of Easter arches has been established in the town. Inside, it is possible to admire the Arches of the past years and to learn about the traditional, historical and cultural aspects which have been characterizing the exhibition in the previous years.