La Macchina di Santa Rosa in Viterbo

Wed, 08/19/2009 - 04:36
santa rosa

Don't let the name fool you! Viterbo's La Macchina di Santa Rosa is no machine at all.

No, the Macchina di Santa Rosa is actually a five-ton, 30-metres tall lighted tower topped by a statue of Santa Maria Rosa, the patron saint of Viterbo credited with saving the city from a pestilence in the 17th century. Every 3 September, the Macchina is carried through the streets of Viterbo by a hundred "facchini," specially chosen for the task.

Indeed, the facchini go through a "prova di portata" in the beginning of the summer to make sure they're up to this important task and also to determine their strategic placement underneath the tower. The Capo Facchino, who must have at least 20 years of carrying the tower under his belt, is also picked to lead the way.

You can see just what a test this is in the film below:

During the transport of the Macchina di Santa Rosa, the Sodalizio dei Facchini di Santa Rosa don white shirts and pants, red belts, black boots, and handkerchiefs over their heads; they also promote the event year-round and even run a museum dedicated to the history and tradition of the celebration. Among the museum displays are models and drawings of past towers; the design is chosen new every year during a public competition.

Here is a taste of what happens in Viterbo on 3 September:

First the facchini position themselves under Santa Rosa:

Here you can see how complicated, big and what an effort the transport requires:

And here is the triumphant moment of the arrival at the last "salita":

But children participate as well - the film below shows the Mini Macchina di Santa Rosa carried by children!

The good times in Viterbo are actually going on right now, though; an announcement on the Soldazio Facchini di Santa Rosa blog notes that between 19-22 August, there will be lots of traditional Viterbese food, music, and other entertaiment in Piazza San Lorenzo. Why not head to northern Lazio and start celebrating?