The Single Issue dated 1901 writes:
“we neither go back to the far-off times, nor to the plays hold before 1850, as the Committees had not sure rules in those days”
These words are the confirmation that already before the 1850 the Passion was played, “in courtyards or in the square” as asserted by Alessandro d’Ancona in his book “Origini del Teatro Italiano, 1891”
The introduction by R.A.Marini to the Passion text, published on the “Bollettino Storico Bibliografico Subalpino” on 1904 clears that “the sole sure date on documents about the Passion is 1816”.
The Single Issue dated 1924 publishes a sonnet composed by Agostino Mersi in the year 1914 in order to celebrate with verses the Passion Centenary:
“with devouted love come people to Sordevolo again,
where the Passion of Christ is renewed,
while a century has already passed by
from the day the play began.”
Therefore several evidences confirm that the Passione di Sordevolo started at the beginning of the XIX century.
Unfortunately the documents R.A.Marini refers to cannot be found but if we also consider the indications given by Delfino Orsi in his book “ La Passione di Sordevolo-Studio di drammatica popolare” Milano-Ricordi 1892 where we read “without any exaggeration we can assert its antiquity several times centennial” we can confirm without any doubt that the Passione di Sordevolo began between the years 1814 and 1816.
Further certainty can be found on the Single Issue dated 1934 where Domenico Otella tells his story as member of the Passion and confirms that the rôle of Judas had been played for forty years by his grandfather, then for forty years by his father and he had already played it for 40 years.
Therefore we go back to the 1814 again.
In order to fix the right date of beginning of the plays in Sordevolo the expert and writer Adalgisa Manza in her book “Le sacre rappresentazioni nel Biellese, 1950” tried to solve the matter starting her research from the Jubileum, proclaimed in a magnificent way by Alessandro VI in the year 1525, an event “that brought to Rome an endless number of italian and foreign people”.
She could not find a final answer; on the contrary, based on the facts that
-in the 1539 the Pope Paul III banned the play of the Passion made by the Confraternita del Gonfalone (Gonfalone Brotherhood) because of the strong emotion it provoked among people.
-in the 1565, during the first local Council in Milan, San Carlo Borromeo decided to extend the ban of the Pope to his diocese too,
the writer fomulated another question, that is: Could this ban be referred to the Passion or to the other sacred plays represented in Sordevolo in those years?
Certainly Sordevolo can be considered a place of faith as in the village there are seven churches (and up to the last century three Brotherhoods too). But it is also a place of popular devotion whose widest expression is nowadays the Passion play, while in the past it was quite surely the Last Judgement, played between the beginning of the XIX century up to the 1895, as well as the St. Augustine drama, played in the year 1777 only.
The strong cultural value of the text played in Sordevolo has been discovered in the last years only.
It is a work in verses that dates back to the end of the XV century, written by Giuliano Dati, chaplain of the church of the Forty Saints Martyrs in Trastevere, Rome.
Year after year, beginning around the 1490, it was played in the Colosseum during the Good Friday by the Arciconfraternita della Beata Vergine del Gonfalone with a great success of people, travelers, pilgrims and notables.
The tradition went on up to the 1539 when, during the difficult years of the Church Reformation, the Pope Paul III banned such plays.
The text of the roman Passion represented in Sordevolo was printed in Turin by the printing house Fontana in the 1728.
This text is kept by the Passion Museum in Sordevolo.
Several philologists, such as D’Ancona and Toschi, mention our Passion as an example of popular theatre based on scripts dating back from the laudi-books period.
Our representation has an inestimable value not only as popular theatre but even as witness of continuity of an age -long literary tradition, arrived here from the capital city.
One of the most important italian scholars of folk traditions, Paolo Toschi, wrote:
“Enhancing the sacred drama we carry out a work of art such as a work of faith in the mean time”
This is the mood we work and prepare every edition of our Passion with.