Cross Day At Corfu
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Having received a letter from my young correspondent at Malta, after his arrival from Corfu, I send you some extracts.
" The 3rd of May. This day is termed Cross Day, as I was told by one of the attendants who could speak a little English. About five o'clock all the bells in Valetta and elsewhere began to make the most horrid jingling I ever heard. A procession of the priests, etc., went through the streets. About this time the Maltese were ready to receive them on their knees, repeating some prayer as they passed by them. I will endeavour to describe the procession : first came four or five shabby fellows with drums 'and a fife, and then after them about a hundred priests of the lower order, dressed in black gowns, with a white cross on their left breasts, with black masks on, and long wax candles lighted, and a number of little boys and girls continually running through the ranks to catch the wax as it fell, thinking it a remedy for all evils ; then came a statue of a knight on a pedestal, borne by four men in black (which was intended to represent our Saviour) ; then the priests of higher order than the former, consisting of the same number as before, with black gowns and candles, but no masks, some with two crosses on their breasts, and a large silver cross like that which knights of Malta used formerly to wear ; then came others carrying a sort of lantherns on long poles, and some singers who preceded a number of them, bearing an immense large cross, mounted on a pedestal of beautiful white marble ; the cross was of polished wood, elegantly bound and inlaid with gold and silver; then followed a number of canons, or, I believe, bishops, who were dressed in black silk gowns, with beautiful worked muslin round their waists, and ruffles with muslin sleeves, and a band of music consisting of a dozen men, three little children dressed like angels with wings, and one like Julius Cæsar (but I cannot say whom he was to represent), and a number of young priests dressed in white with lighted candles, chanting hymns as they went along, in which the people every now and then joined chorus ; and, lastly, two little boys dressed in white, with black sleeves, who scattered incense before a canopy borne by six men, under which were three gentlemen of the Catholic Church. I could not very well distinguish their dresses, but they appeared to me to be dressed like the heralds that proclaimed the King's coronation. The middle one carried a small wafer or cake, which, having been consecrated by the bishop, is supposed to represent the Saviour, and is enclosed in a gold or silver box, which is called the Host : as this passed by the people all knelt down. The multitude that followed was very great, all eager to touch the person who carried the Host, and repeated some prayer. The principal thing they carried was the statue representing the Virgin Mary, dressed in a silk gown, with a child in her arms and a handful of flowers."