La Festa dei Pugnaloni & della madonna dei fiori
Every third Sunday in May we celebrate in Aquapendente. The feast of the Madonna del Fiore and of the Pugnaloni. According to Mauro, my host this afternoon one of the oldest folkloric feasts of the Alta Tuscia.
We go back in time, he laughs, to the year 1166 AD. The inhabitants of Aquapendente managed to free themselves from their tyrannical overlord Federico 1 Barbarossa.
Two farmers were busy working on their land where there was an old dried-out cherry tree. The tree refused to bloom since Barbarossa came to power. Suddenly, to the amazement of the farmers, the tree blossoms again while they were working in the fields.
The work was forgotten and the farmers rushed to the city to inform everyone about this miracle. The residents saw this as an auspicious sign of the Madonna. It was time to stand up to Barbasossa
After the news of the blossoming cherry tree spread like wildfire in Aquapendente, the residents gathered. Armed with Pugnaloni, a long wooden stick with an iron tip, they stormed the castle of Barbarossa. The Madonna was well disposed towards the residents and Barbarossa allowed herself to be expelled.
To celebrate the victory, the inhabitants, mainly the peasants, accompanied the procession of the Madonna dei Fiori with their Pugnaloni (prod). These sticks were used on the land to clean the plow. During the procession, the sticks were decorated with broom branches and other blooming flowers of the land.
The prods have been replaced over the years by panels (2.60 meters wide by 3.60 meters high) on which mosaics are made. For example, a religious festival has been given a modern twist and the feast of the Madonna dei Fiori and the Pugnaloni are celebrated together.
Notte Bianca; open studios and pizza.
The Saturday evening before the party, Mauro thinks the notte bianca is actually the most beautiful part of the whole event. Every neighborhood works all night on its Pugnaloni. Before that time, the young people from 15 neighborhoods have spent weeks looking for and picking flowers, seeds and leaves in nature, to incorporate them into the mosaics and to make the sketches.
It is a special experience to visit the open workshops where people work with passion to make the most beautiful Pugnaloni. The piazza Garibaldi is extra cozy, where pizza is baked for all participants and visitors until the early morning.
When the mosaics are ready the following day, the Pugnaloni will be displayed in various places in Aquapendente and a jury of experts will come to assess the originality, artistic value and quality of the mosaic. The recurring theme every year is victory and freedom. In the afternoon they are exhibited in the main square, Piazza Girolamo Fabrizio. Here everyone can view the Pugnaloni.
It is immediately clear that it is a special day, according to Mauro: the Pugnaloni are lined up and the surrounding buildings are all decorated with our flags of the 15 neighbourhoods. These 15 neighborhoods will compete for the prize who makes the most beautiful Pugnaloni. Meanwhile, the festival in the city is a beautiful medieval procession crosses the square with flag-waving and standard-bearers walking to the rhythm of trumpets and drums.
At the end of the afternoon when the winner is announced, we will jointly return the Madonna del Fiore to her cathedral. No more farmers with their prods, but 15 neighborhoods with 15 Pugnaloni accompanied the Madonna to the Santo Sepolcro Cathedral. The 15 Pugnaloni works of art will remain here for a year so that they can be visited.
The following year, the neighborhoods collect their crafted Pugnaloni from the church and destroy it to make a new one for the special festival.