La Macchina di Santa Rosa is a festival that takes place on the 3rd of September every year in the city of Viterbo, Italy. This is a spectacular procession carrying a 30 meter high brightly lit tower with Santa Rosa’s miniature statue at its zenith. The course of the procession is the winding road of the town of Viterbo, which is more than 1 kilometer in length. The celebration has two events. One event happens in the afternoon of 2nd September. In this ceremony a reliquary containing the heart of Saint Rosa, Viterbo’s own protector saint is carried in a grand procession of people wearing ancient historical costumes.
The celebration is to commemorate the transfer of her body from the first burial place at Santa Maria in Poggio. She was buried under bare ground in 1251. In 1258 the Pope Alexander IV ordered her body, which was almost intact even after years, to be transported to the Basilica, which has now become a pilgrim’s destination in her name. The initial ‘macchina’ was a canopy and an alter-like structure with the statue of Santa Rosa, which was carried in a grand procession. But in the 18th century, elaborate designs were fashioned. They were tall tower like structures carried by hundreds of ‘porters of Santa Rosa’ called facchini. They are dressed in white with red sashes tied around their waist.
The initial structures were made of paper pulp. As the years went by, there were changes in the structure and the construction materials of the ‘macchina’. Now this fabulous structure is made of steel, aluminum, fiber glass etc. and illuminated lavishly by LED bulbs and handmade cloth flowers. The present structure is almost 30 meters high and weighs about 50 quintals.
A design of the ‘macchina’ is changed every five or six years. The sketches of the designs used through the years and the models of the macchina are on exhibition in the museum. A design competition is held every five years and the best model is selected for the upcoming La Macchina di Santa Rosa. The designs have evolved greatly through the years, from the gothic to the most modern ones.
The construction of the tower is completed before June. The trials are carried out at the end of June. The Facchini are also given enough training for carrying this extremely heavy structure. They are blessed at the church of San Sisto on September 3rd, prior to the commencement of the historical procession.
The course of the procession, which is more than one kilometer, will be blacked out during the procession, so that the blazing wonder, which is the ‘Macchina di Santa Rosa’, becomes incredibly spectacular.
This is the most important annual event of Viterbo. The locals take this annual tribute to their young saint with a lot of enthusiasm and sobriety. In spite of a few accidents in the past, this procession is carried on with verve. The crowd attends this festival in large numbers to see the wonderful tower of their savior. They believe that Santa Rosa had delivered them from the deadly plague in the 17th century. This spectacular procession is the expression of their gratitude to Santa Rosa.
by Marina Chernyak
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