From an historical viewpoint the Holy Representation can be considered
a dynamic forerunner of Sacred Mounts. Starting from Middle Age popular devotional events, in which they staged many tableaux vivants concerning evangelic texts, first of all about Jesus’ Passion, had often taken place.
These tableaux vivants were characterized by the direct involvement of faithfuls in the telling and by the use of the outdoor
churches’s environment as setting, (sometimes completed by temporary props); such characteristics made them surely innovative in comparison
with the traditional liturgy and much more effective for their exemplifying religious message.
Devotional practices concerning Holy Land’s relics had preserved in the West, for a long time, the memory of the historical facts which
form the Christianity basis; later on, popular theatrical plays, first only staged for local Brotherhoods then for all faithfuls, became
important religious didactic moments for the spread of the Redemption message.
The standing plays which, since the end of the XV century, were staged within the Sacred Mounts chapels of the Alpine arc, can also be seen
as an evolution of the above-mentioned peculiar form of popular theatre, finally enlarged to the whole community. Piedmont, like many other
regions in Italy, boasted lots of ‘scripts’ purposely written for these plays, as the famous text of Revello concerning the Passion, which
dates back to the XV century; in the course of time many texts have been lost and only some precious ones still witness such traditions
and religious culture.
During the Holy Week, in Belvedere Langhe, in Cuneo’s province, starting from ancient texts in part elaborated again, people play the Passion
of Jesus according to a tradition dating back to XIII century. This tradition, carried on up to 1878, then forgotten for years, is nowadays
played through village streets and places by two hundred and fifty people in a live and by heart performance, accompanied by light and sound effects.
In Garessio, again in Cuneo’s province, the Holy Representation of the ‘Mortorio’ (Jesus’ Death) is realized since centuries by the John-the-Baptist
and Mercy’s Brotherhood during the Easter-week in order to commemorate the Christ’s Deposition: they play theatrical tableaux vivants, but
before it goes the Angels of Misteries procession.
The Passion staged in Sordevolo, in Biella’s province, is a popular tradition dating back to XVI century: after alternating periods in which it was
not celebrated, is nowadays an interesting event which takes place every five years and attracts thousands of people with its wondeful dramatic show,
played in an outdoor amphitheatre changed into a small part of the Holy Land.
One of the most important event of this kind is represented every two years in Romagnano Sesia, in Novara’s province, on Holy Thursdays, Fridays
and Saturdays, throughout the streets of the village, where they play scenes taken from the Passion of Christ; the scripts are based on evangelic
texts and integrated with dialogues written on purpose and adapted to popular language. During the three-days-event, which involves more than
three hundred players, they respect the historical facts’ chronology by setting fifteen dramatic tableaux vivants which represent
Christ’s death; these also include the Betrayal by Judas, the Last Supper, the Capture of Jesus, the Courts of Herod and Pilate, the
Flagellation and the Crucifixion.
Just like the night procession of the previous day, the Resurrection scenes played during Holy
Saturday’s nights attract a big number of faithfuls which also become emotionally participating players. This Holy Representation,
called since spanish domination times Santo Enterro, was again set since 1729 basing on a far older tradition; this
event is nowadays of great interest even for what costume’s history is concerned. In fact some of the used costumes are still made
in the original styles; these clothes also represent a mutual exchange between the theatre representation and the other one, standing
but wonderful, set within the nearby Varallo’s Sacred Mount chapels.