Annunciation Processions

In older times outdoor Annunciation processions before or after the church service were popular especially in warmer countries. We may suppose that there were beautifully embroidered banners and solemn music at such processions and that often a decorated image of the Annunciation was carried into the chapel or church to be put in a place of honor where all could see it.

In Padua, Italy a grand procession led the way every year to the Arena chapel of the Scrovegni family where the Mass of the Annunciation was celebrated.  This procession at Padua was particularly elaborate. Two  boy actors  dressed as the Virgin and the Angel Gabriel were carried on ornamented chairs  from the Palazzo della Ragione.  Carrying crosses, the bishop, clergy, and religious orders of Padua together with the most notable civil dignitaries of the city joined the two boy actors who were led by trumpeters in procession to the arena in front of the chapel where in a specially prepared area the young actor costumed as Gabriel with wings and a lily spoke the angelic words of annunciation to the other young actor costumed as the Virgin.

Once in the Arena chapel as the solemn Mass began all present could see the fresh bright colors of the fresco of the Annunciation  by Giotto with the Angel Gabriel on one side and the Virgin Mary on the other on the chancel wall above the sanctuary.  Although they are now faded to dim pastels, one can still see these frescos if one goes to the chapel at Padua.

Processions were brought to the New World by the early colonists. When the first settlers landed in the colony of Maryland on Annunciation day in 1634, they concluded their Annunciation Mass with a procession in which they carried a newly hand hewn cross which they then erected to memorialize the day.

One still finds processions on Annunciation day in various locales today. Despite the blustery weather in Chicago in March,  Saint Constance Church has held a candlelight procession after evening Mass on the Annunciation sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in their colorful capes and plumed hats. Where  Annunciation processions are held they often attract large fervent crowds.