When the plague hit Florence and all its surrounding areas in the 17th century, it spared the small town of Grassina just outside the city. To give thanks, the town held a solemn procession on Good Friday in 1633. The tradition continues through to present day with the Good Friday Passion Play and procession in Grassina, which attracts hundreds of participants, dressed in attire from the period and even more spectators.
Suspended during the war years, the commemoration was resumed in an expanded version in 1950 and it continued until 1966, the year that Florence was hit by the disastrous flood. Some years later a group of volunteers from Grassina proposed a new script and also new music. The representation was then divided into two parts: the historical parade and the scenes of Christ’s life. Although suspended this year, due to the need to contain virus, the town looks forward to bringing the event back next year.
The pageant of town’s people in historic costumes would move slowly through the city streets towards the hill of Calvary just outside town, led by the Roman world figures, followed by the people from the Jewish world and then others mentioned in the Gospels. Meanwhile, up on the hill there is a grassy area under floodlights where there are re-enactments of the Passion and Death of Christ. The play is a full story following the order: Prologue, Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Baptism of Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Dance of Salome and the Martyrdom of John the Baptist, Raising of Lazarus from the Dead, Betrayal of Judah, Last Supper, Passion and Arrest of Jesus, the Sanhedrin, Court of Pontius Pilate, Damnation of Judah, Crucifixion and Deposition.
The procession would arrive on the hill at the key moment, with Christ carrying his cross and joining in the reenactment for a powerful final scene to this intense drama that in total, has more than 500 participants.