Every September, Viterbo celebrates Saint Rose, the patron of the city who died in 1251. This unique tradition, handed down for over 750 years, was recognized by UNESCO in 2013 as part of the oral and intangible heritage.
The tradition of Viterbo
The annual festival of Santa Rosa is Viterbo’s most illustrious religious and folk festival, and one of the most famous in Italy. In essence, the celebrations are what make the event unique. According to tradition, a group of roughly a hundred men, carry a thirty-meter-high tower weighing 5100 kg through a kilometer-long walkway in the village’s center. The machine of Santa Rosa, as it is called, is crowned by a statue of the saint herself. Those who take part in this procession are known as Facchini di Santa Rosa (Porters), and their selection is a pretty unusual process. Every year, between June and July, aspiring Facchini must pass the test di portata (strength test).
Generally, only those who can complete a circular path three times with 150 kg of weight on their shoulders are regarded as suitable for moving the equipment.
At 8 p.m. on September 3, the porters will walk the automobile backward until it reaches the sanctuary of Santa Rosa.
The historic center’s lights are turned off at 9 p.m., and the procession begins. The transit symbolizes the transportation of the body and is accented by a loud choir singing Evviva Santa Rosa. (Hurrah Saint Rose).
“Under with the tuft and stop!“, “Raise and stop!” and “Santa Rosa, come on!” are the directions of the chief porter. The difficult journey begins.
The ritual is really ominous. It has four pauses, and after roughly two hours of sacrifice, the porters travel a hard slope that leads directly to Santa Rosa’s sanctuary. The machine is exhibited after the procession for several days, and the urn containing the patron’s body is visited by hundreds of devout every year.
The machine of Santa Rosa
In truth, the tower as we know it now has a configuration dating back to around 1700. However, its initial iteration, possibly derived from a procedural canopy, dated from 1664. Around 1800, the municipality of Viterbo commissioned the design and construction of a new structure, which was lit with torches and powered by electricity. What we now term a tower was originally just a decorative structure.
Presently, the machine is built in accordance with the tight guidelines specified by the municipality of Viterbo. The company is in charge of developing a machine 28 meters high to be placed on the shoulders of the porters, raising the whole height to around 29.5 meters, under a contract of at least 5 years. The width of the streets of the old town and the height of the surrounding buildings limit their measures.
Who was Saint Rose?
She was born in 1233 and died at the age of 18 in the same city, and she is today renowned as Viterbo’s patron saint. Following his death, the body was exhumed from the graveyard of the church of Saint Maria in Poggio with no obvious indications of decay, and this remains a mystery. He was moved to the church of Saint Damiano, now known as the Sanctuary of Saint Rose, and this event is commemorated each year with the transportation of the machine.
No extraordinary efforts were taken to preserve it throughout the years, but rather. The faithful were allowed to touch the saint through a small aperture on the urn during the Renaissance. According to the most recent postmortem investigation, Saint Rose was between the ages of 18 and 20 at the time of her death, with a height of 1.55m, blue eyes, and dark hair. She also appears to have had Cantrell syndrome, which is characterized by congenital sternum lack.
This spectacular event, with its triumphal tower more than thirty meters high, reflects the Italian people’s inventiveness, passion, and tenacity in commemorating their history and roots. However, Saint Rose is more than just a parade. Particularly, It’s a sign of community, faith, and commitment that brings people together in an extraordinary display of oneness. The celebration is a beautiful example of how Italian culture continues to thrive and inspire in a world where ancient traditions can sometimes vanish into the maelstrom of technology.