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25 Mar 2013 0 comments Redacció

The Dance of Death of Verges

If there is a Holy Week procession in Catalonia that is traditional yet original, that’s the one in the town of Verges, where every Holy Thursday they perform the Dance of Death. Although the whole town gets involved and it has been celebrated for many years, no one can tell exactly when it really began. Its origins are muddled. However there is written evidence from the seventeenth century and medieval paintings that proof a long-standing tradition

Famous Catalan folk singer Lluis Llach, born in Verges, directed the procession between 2009 and 2011. He introduced some changes in this macabre dance that has evolved during the years but managed to keep its gloomy spirit.

A snapshot of the Dance of Death. Tino Soriano

The performance starts at five in the afternoon with the Manaies Parade (Roman soldiers). It collects the images previously distributed around town, that later at night will be used by another parade.

At ten o’clock, the theatrical performance of the Passion of Christ begins. Where? Right at the heart of town: In its main square. Those interested in attending must purchase a ticket in advance.

At midnight, the actors go to the church from where they begin the procession through the town streets. It is at this moment when the famous Dance of Death is performed together with other biblical scenes.

The Crucifixion. Tino Soriano

Ten people divided into two groups participate in the Dance of Death. Two adults and three minors, wearing skeleton costumes, carry symbolic instruments: scythe, flag, clock without hands and little plates with ashes. Following behind you have the other group formed by three adults and three minors wearing black robes, skull masks, and carrying torches while advancing at the pace of a dramatic drumbeat.

Such dances are linked to the plague that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages. Death, with the flag, tells us that it is coming and that no one escapes its unpredictable scythe that can strike at any time –indicated by the clock without hands– and that we will turn into ashes.

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