During the week preceding Easter, from dawn on Holy Wednesday until the conclusion of the procession on Good Friday, an ancient rite of medieval origin takes place in the town of San Fratello, in the province of Messina, known as “The fanfare of the Jews”.

The celebration, which covers three whole days, still maintains elements of pagan origin and grotesquely evokes the harassment and oppression suffered by Jesus, at the hands of the Jews and Roman soldiers, according to the biblical narrative. A group of young men of the community who impersonate the tormentors has the task of “disturbing” the religious events, in particular the Good Friday procession, playing trumpets, waving chains, harassing the community.

The young people run around the streets of the town dressed with the typical costume of the “Jews”, consisting of trousers and a finely worked jacket with sequins and a hood (sbirijàn) to which a long leather tongue is sewn on the outside. From the pointed hood follows a long animal tail that reaches down to the calves. A cluster of chains (displina) is worn tied to one wrist. Many wear a pair of rawhide shoes on their feet.

The role of “Jew” and the custom are generally handed down from father to son. The young people, impersonating the scourgers, reproduce goliardic behaviours, making noises, cackles and playing trumpets.

In today’s rite all violent behaviour has disappeared and the community accompanies the simulacra of Christ’s passion in devout recollection, but in the past the “Jews” went to an area of the town assigned to them, where they were thrown citrus fruits (to simulate a stoning): from this element probably derives the use of the hood that could protect their face from splashes of citrus fruits.

This behaviour aims to recreate a “controlled chaos”, which is a prelude to rebirth and order, represented, in religious interpretation, by the resurrection of Christ, and connected to the rebirth of nature in the springtime.


Lo Castro N., La festa dei Giudei a San Fratello: kermesse diaboliche della Settimana Santa, in Feste, fiere, mercati, a cura di Assessorato alla pubblica istruzione, EDAS, Messina, 1992 pp. 457-467.

Buttitta A., Le feste di Pasqua, s.l. Sicilian tourist service, 1990

Glielmi N. e Motta R., La processione dei giudei di San Fratello (Messina), Arti grafiche Corrao, Trapani, 1985

Pitrè G., Cartelli, pasquinate, anti, leggende, usi del popolo siciliano, Editore Forni, Sala Bolognese (BO), 1985 pp. 226-228.

Rubino B. e Cocchiara G., Usi e costumi novelle e poesie del popolo siciliano: esposizione critica, Remo Sandron, Palermo, 1924

Sellerio E., San Fratello (Messina) Pasqua processione dei giudei, Sellerio, Palermo, 1951-1966

REI - Libro delle celebrazioni - Fanfara dei Giudei https://reis.cricd.it/reisicilia/details/2/44