Tuesday, September 4, 2007

La Macchina di Santa Rosa (Viterbo)

What do you get when you combine religious devotion with crazy Italians? Festivals such as the procession in honor of Saint Rose of Viterbo. St. Rose was born in Viterbo in the 1200's. She is famous for ministering to the sick when a plague struck the city. When she died, her body was found incorrupt. It was carried to the church by men of the families she had saved from the plague. Every year thereafter, her body was carried in procession through the town in honor of her sanctity. Eventually the tradition gave way to carrying a tower around bearing an image of her while her body was left in the church. Over time the tower grew bigger and more elaborate. Today it stands over 100 feet tall and weighs approximately five tons. It is carried through the streets of the town for approximately by 100 men, descendants of the original families of Viterbo. They are grouped by family, and continue an 800-year old tradition.

Unfortunately, the week before the procession, a tornado-force wind slammed into Viterbo blowing down the scaffolding and the tower. The people worked 24 hours around the clock to reconstruct it, and it was ready in time for the annual feast of September 3rd. Here is a picture of the reconstructed tower with the mangled scaffolding in the background.

The procession with the tower is preceded by a display of locals parading through town in period costumes with period music.

And flag twirling.

As night falls, the tower is lit up with hundreds of candles. Many of these pictures are actually going to be pictures taken of a video screen which was displaying the procession. We were near the end of the route and had to watch the beginning on the big-screen.

A shot of the crowd. It was like this for the entire processional route. Some people couldn't even see. I was amazed at how many people there were.

The men marching out of the church up to the beginning of the route. There are 100 men, each of which undergo quite rigorous tests before they are allowed to carry the tower. They have to be able to march around a room 3 times carrying 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and have their heart checked out.

Here's a shot of each family group marching through the streets.

The men line up in front of the tower and as their family name is called they rush forward to take their places under the frame. The smallest men go in the front, the taller ones in the back.

The men all have shoulder pads that they tie on to the frame. The shorter men have thicker pads that help balance out the height. Here is a picture of them tying their pads on to their numbered spots.

A picture of the men almost ready to go.

When the men are underneath the leader gives a shout and they all raise the massive tower up in the air.

Here is a link to a video clip I took showing the men carrying the tower. Make sure you watch it!


Here's the tower being carried into the piazza where we were.

A close-up shot of part of the tower.

At the end of the procession the men run up a hill with the tower to the church where St. Rose's body is, and put it down there. Here it is. You can see in the dark it's taller than any of the other buildings.


eleonora said...

oh this is very strange events that i don't know...but finally you've learn that italian's people are all crazy...!!!
see ya...

eleonora said...

Sorry if i use you're blog for my interests but i don't like that many people think about italian=pizza+spaghetti+maphia...italians hate maphia as me...please clik on this meetup for V-DAY ON 8TH SEPTEMBER 2007 ...

DelGrosso said...

This is really something! I remember reading about St. Rose. These are great shots of the festival.

Alessia said...


in English: "W S.Rosa...with the car and everything!"

Molly said...

Hey guys these are really great photos.well I hope you come to vist us soon :D

Aunt Pat said...

That has to be one of the most insane things i have ever seen. And so well attended! I think you got some awesome pictures, how long did the parade last?
Gee it's wonerful

Aunt Pat said...

This is amazing... one of the most insane things I have ever seen. How long was the parade? The pictures are wonderful
Love you

Aggie said...

Ditto on Aunt's Pat comments. How long was the processional route?