Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.34

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Switzerland has nominated Holy Week processions in Mendrisio (No. 01460) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Holy Week processions take place in the historic town of Mendrisio on the evenings of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, attracting over 10,000 spectators. On these occasions, the city’s lights are turned off and the streets are lit by the glow of ‘transparencies’: translucent paintings mounted on wooden frames and illuminated from within, made using a specific painting technique developed since the late 18th century. Nowadays, the 260 transparencies depict biblical scenes and symbols. The Thursday procession is devoted to staging the Passion and the Stations of the Cross and involves around 270 extras. The sounds of trumpets and drums set the pace and fill the streets with a contemplative atmosphere. The Good Friday procession is more austere: hundreds of children and adults march along carrying over 500 ceremonial objects, including 320 lanterns representing symbols of the Passion of Christ. The choreography and scenography of the processions foster a contemplative atmosphere, and the transparencies promote local craftsmanship. Hundreds of men and women volunteer to organize the practice, and a significant portion of the population supports it by attending the processions. The Fondazione Processioni Storiche di Mendrisio is committed to preparing and organizing the processions with wide community participation and ensures the transmission of related knowledge by its members and beyond.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The Holy Week processions in Mendrisio are a cultural and spiritual event that involves and brings together a significant portion of the population of the Mendrisio region. The processions express the popular spirituality represented by Easter in a colourful and ritualistic manner. The way in which participants in the processions are informed about the tradition and recruited is central for transmitting the related knowledge. Schools in the region are involved in order to encourage younger participants to join in. More informally, transmission also occurs largely within families who have participated in the processions for several generations.

R.2:   The inscription of Holy Week processions in Mendrisio on the Representative List would add to the range of processions inscribed and show how an event associated with popular spirituality can be turned into an event open to all. The processions are an example of intergenerational dialogue that extends beyond family, social, community or cultural affiliations through active collaboration between people of different generations. The inscription of the element would foster this dynamic of exchange and provide a positive platform for dialogue and collaboration.

R.3:   The viability of the element is formally guaranteed by the Fondazione Processioni Storiche di Mendrisio and its practitioners and bearers. They are supported in this respect by the municipality, the Museum of Transparencies and the media. The proposed safeguarding measures include a wide variety of activities connected with the transmission, promotion and study of the element as well as awareness-raising activities. They were developed and discussed in cooperation with bearers of the element during many meetings and will include the participation of cultural institutions, schools and local authorities.

R.4:   Researchers, members of the Foundation in Mendrisio and state and local authorities (the Federal Office of Culture, municipality of Mendrisio) participated in drafting the nomination file and related discussions from 2012 to 2017. The handwritten letters of free, prior and informed consent from the community, groups and individuals concerned – including men and women of all ages – were obtained following two information sessions organized by the Foundation Board in November and December 2017.

R.5:   The element was included on the List of Living Traditions in Switzerland in 2012. The Federal Office of Culture, Bern is the body responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory. The national inventory is regularly updated following a five-year cycle through a bottom-up approach which allows the population and the cantons to propose the addition of new elements and the revision of information regarding elements already listed.

  1. Decides to inscribe Holy Week processions in Mendrisio on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.