Corsica: Death and Penitence

DSCF8974As I depart for the French Island of Corsica, the passengers of the ferry are transfixed by the TV news for the headline story is the terrifying terrorist attacks in Paris. The carefully coordinated and calculated shooting and bombing reminds me of similar events in Mumbai in 2008 and the news coverage is shockingly similar. My more immediate concern is how this might affect my border entry into Bonifacio on the south coast of Corsica. However, I’m waved off the ferry without a single stop.

DSCF9010The town of Bonifacio, which hovers precariously on the edge of a high cliff, is quiet in the early morning and in a state of restoration. On my way to the point, I pass by the Church of St Domenic which is shrouded in scaffolding and the former barracks of the foreign legion, mostly abandoned and vandalised, though there is one building which has been renovated which shows signs of things to come. Although the largest church is closed, the smaller chapels are open, each displaying a sculpted group of saints and angels which are carried around the town and out to the Hermitage of the Trinity, during the Procession of the Five Orders.









Inland, at the hilltown of Sartene they have the Catenecciu (Penitent), where a local man deemed in need of redemption is chosen to carry a 32kg cross on a long and tortuous route through the town which symbolises the station of the cross. The Penitent is hidden under a hooded red cloak and only the local priest who chose him knows his identity. Further north, the laid back tourist port of Propriano may seem very chic and modern but in the church of Notre Dame de Misericorde I find another 30kg cross and large set of chains which are also carried through the streets on Good Friday.



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