Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Palm By Any Other Name

Even though I live across the river from Big Ben and the Boys I tend to forget my religious feast days other than Christmas. Oh I know I post a saint-a-day but that's from a fun little website that reminds me that today is San Gontrano or at least it would be if it hadn't been displaced by a greater feast.

This morning as I trundled through the Galleria in Milano towards the Metro I noticed people carrying bundles of olive branches tied with ribbons. If the bells that began sounding at 0730 hadn't been enough to remind me then those little bundles did the trick - today is Palm Sunday. The day when tradition tells us Christ road into Jerusalem on a donkey to the welcoming cries of the populace who spread palm leaves before him.

Despite what the Italians call it palms are not much in evidence here - except those carried by the clergy in procession. The congregation gets blessed olive branches. Why olive branches and not palms? I'm not really sure - but according to the GB's article in Italian Notebook it may just be that that olive trees are more plentiful? I know that back in my church going days in Toronto we always had full palm fronds for the clergy and choir and small palm crosses for the congregation.

And in Poland colourful artificial palms are made of woven husks entwined with dried flowers and carried in procession. In some cases the fronds carried in procession are over 30 meters high. Our housekeeper Christine would always bring us blessed palms like the ones on the right.

In villages in Germany and, as I discovered on my visit to the Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V&A, England it was not uncommon to have a figure of Christ on a donkey carried or wheeled in procession. Often the procession would wend its way through several villages with the figure being handed over to each village in turn until it ended back in its home parish.

This example of the wood carvers art from the Bode Museum in Berlin was created in the Lower Rhine Valley. It was probably brightly painted when it first appeared in procession in the late 1400s.

28 marzo - Domenica delle Palme

1 comment:

sageweb said...

wow Olive branches seem do you braid them or make little crosses out of them during church?