August 2004 Feast Days at Torricella
By Antonio Piccoli, August 2004
This year too, as every year, the 12th and 13th of August are feast days in honour of the Patron Saints, San Marziale, San Domenico and San Rocco.
As always, on the first day there is the band, with the "procession of the conche1" and the torchlight procession (fiaccolata2) along the Corso3 (main road); on the second day there is procession of the Saints, the orchestra and the fireworks to conclude the feast days.
A rumour went round Torricella this year that there was the risk that they would not hold it because of some misunderstandings with the parish priest, but then, luckily these were settled reasonably. And since there wasn’t sufficient time to collect the citizens’ offerings, the feasts were carried out in a reduced manner.
Anyway, the essential things, that make it typical in the surroundings, were all there.
The morning of 12th August, all of Torricella was awakened by the din of very loud bangs.
It was the official opening of the celebrations.
To wake up to the bang of the first shot, to appear at the window, rubbing ones eyes at the clarity and brightness of the morning light of August, to feel the fresh air and hear the frightened dogs barking, the pigeons fluttering on the roofs, and to cap it all the notes of the band marching along the village streets, let me tell you, it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know, but one feels good there. All the morning then, with the band playing along the Corso and through the various districts – that is something which cheers the soul.
In the afternoon, at 5 o’clock, there was the beautiful and by now firm Torricellan tradition of the "procession of the conche". Several children, 30 or 40, dressed in Abruzzan costume, in pairs, holding the conca, symbol of Abruzzo, filled with sweets and decorated with flowers, file along the Corso accompanied by the little Marches of the unfailing band. Then there is the prize-giving at the end of the procession for the most beautiful conca.
At 10 in the evening there is the classic torchlight procession. Suddenly all the lights of the illuminations in the Corso were turned off, it became completely dark and at the same time the first torches were lit, a myriad of people accompanied by the band walked towards the main church by the light of torches arranged on the lampposts of the Corso. This year they attached the torches to the posts of the street lights but the experiment did not please (people), probably they will go back to putting them on each balcony along the Corso next year. (The crowd) having arrived beneath the church, the pyrotechnic display of fireworks began in the courtyard of the church. This too is a fantastic moment, the appearance and disappearance of the church’s façade, the play of lights, make it a unique spectacle.
After the fireworks, to close the evening, there was a concert by the band from "Gioa del Colle4", a small town in Puglia, which has always been home to the most well-known musical bands. Thus, with the airs of lyrical operas the most classic and traditional signature was put to the first evening of the patron Saints’ feast days.
Let us also say that a feast without a band is not a feast.
The second day then there was the more religious phase with a Mass and the procession of Saint Marziale, the Saint who protects Torricella. The characteristic of this procession is that the Saint, carried on their shoulders by four men, is represented by a small statue, only 70 cm high, because, according to the sacred legends, when he died Saint Marziale was a child of only seven years of age. For some time now, an ancient Torricellan tradition that had been lost in time has been restored: in front of the Saint’s statue parade Santa Felicità, a girl dressed like the Madonna, and seven little girls also dressed in olden costumes. They hope to represent the martyrdom of Santa Felicità, a Christian noblewoman from Roman times with her seven children, all beatified, of whom the youngest was San Marziale.
In the evening then to close in beauty, apart from the fireworks lit on the sports field, very beautiful this year too, although slightly lower down due to certain regulations laid down by the Firefighters, there was an exhibition by a folk orchestra of Abruzzan music, the folk group from Altino5, who made so many people dance until two in the morning with Tarantellas, Mazurkas and Saltarellos6.
What more could one want? These are village feasts. And we are very fond of them.
1 Conca – conche (plural) copper vessels for carrying water or grain – typically in the olden days carried by ladies balanced on the head, (no hands!); now carried between pairs of young girls2 Fiaccolata – A procession, at night, illuminated by torches carried by the participants 3 Corso – the main road 4 Gioia del Colle – a small inland town in the fertile plains of the Province of Puglia (the heel of Italy) about halfway between Bari and Taranto; population 26,500. 5 Altino – a village built in medieval times, set on a fertile hilltop near the confluence of the Aventine and Sangro Rivers; sacked by brigands after the fall of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies (in the 1860’s); population 2,500. 6 Saltarello – an Italian and Spanish dance for one couple, with sudden skips
Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca