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The population of Cantiano tripled this year when the people of the village performed their 1000-year-old tradition known as La Turba.

Literally translated, La Turba means “crowd” in Italian. In Cantiano, a small town of 2,500 in the Marche region, the crowd to see La Turba is anything but small.

La Turba is the village’s representation of the Good Friday Miracle, commonly known as a “passion play,” illustrating the condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“It was emotional, powerful,” said Susan Nichols, a resident of Cantiano and the owner of a local bed and breakfast. “The first time you see it is amazing.”

Cantiano’s pageant has been so powerful and successful that it has earned the group a coveted membership in Europassion, an organization representing the most prestigious sacred performances in Europe. Cantiano is one of 11 Italian towns to be given membership.


For the first time this year, the production of La Turba was televised in Italy. The preparation for this was done both by the town of Cantiano and by the Vatican.

“God gives something to La Turba,” said Don Fausto, a priest at the Church of St. Ubaldo. “We begin the preparation each year in the winter, but Turba is always in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our prayers.”

La Turba takes place two days before Easter Sunday every year. The roles are played by townspeople, not professional actors. These townspeople play the same roles every year, and the roles are usually handed down from family member to family member.

The main character of Turba is not Gesù [Jesus], it is the crowd,” stated Stefania Calandrini, a Cantiano city representative. “The crowd is the most important part of Turba.”

The role of Jesus is currently played by Mario Bianchi, a Cantiano resident who has played this role for many years.

“Children begin learning the Turba and playing in it when they are young, in kindergarten,” Fausto said with a smile. ‘To a priest, it is a way of preparing young people to be evangelized later. It is for purification of the spirit.”

This production covers many aspects of Christianity with the script taken directly from the Bible.

Beginning in the piazza, Judas betrays Christ. The crowd proceeds to the a grassy park less than 100 meters away, where Jesus and his disciples are having “The Last Supper.”

Jesus is arrested and the procession returns to the town’s main piazza where three large stages are set up.
The crowd watches and reacts in shock, anger and horror while they watch Christ be condemned to death by Pilate and Herod.

Following the condemnation, those participating in the play process up Ubaldo hill, following Jesus bearing his cross. The crowd watches from below, in the parking lot of St. Ubaldo Church as the light of the torches moving slowly and steadily past the remains of the old castle. The actors’ climb toward three crosses lining the top of the hill, the symbol of Cantiano’s La Turba.


“It is very important to know,” insisted Calandrini, “that there is no blood shown in the Turba. We are unable to see Gesù being nailed to the cross; we must imagine it for ourselves.”

Cantiano’s version of La Turba chooses to emphasize the resurrection of Christ rather than the crucifixion.
Fausto and Calandrini both express a desire to change La Turba, modifying it only slightly.

La Turba is getting bigger. More people come to see it. If they see the same thing every year, what is to keep them coming?” sighed Calandrini. “But it is difficult to change. So many people know every word, every movement, every action. If something were to change, so many would be dissatisfied. It is very difficult.”

The current version of La Turba has been performed since 1946, just after World War II. Fausto explained that La Turba began in the 11th century as a form of purified religious practice.

Distraught by wars and feuding between the classes, people would whip themselves in the streets to gain attention. At the time it was more of a political consideration than a religious one.


In the 14th century, music was added and given more of a structure. La Turba was dedicated to the suffering of the people.

In the 17th century, a religious movement swept the town and La Turba became a procession, adding scenes from the Old Testament combined with the new. For the first time, the Turba was all about religion with no political undertones.

This version was practiced until the 1940s when it became an allegory, focusing on the Good Friday Miracle with the script drawn straight from the Bible.

“We could talk about La Turba,” Calandrini said, “for two days if you let us.”

Web By: Charles Duva

Story By: Maggie Mednikoff

Photography By: Anne Curran

Video By: Meghan Mullen


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