Our friend “Zampognaro” (bagpiper), Francesco Sabatini, sent us a new post about the celebration, on 17th of January every year, of the feast of St. Anthony Abbot in his native village in Abruzzo, Luco dei Marsi.
St. Anthony was an Egyptian hermit, considered the founder of Christian monasticism and the first abbot. In Italy, and in Abruzzo, tradition wants that all those who have to do with fire are placed under the patronage of St. Anthony, in honor of the story that tells that the Saint went to hell to contend, against the devil, the souls of sinners. This tradition finds different expressions in local celebrations of the Saint. In Luco dei Marsi, where Francesco lives, on the eve of St. Anthony feast, local people light big fires on the main village square.
Then the evening of the following day, 17th January, people gathers in a little church, dedicated to the Saint, located just outside Luco dei Marsi.
The procession moves from outside the church and the statue of the Saint is taken around, by young local farmers, through the village roads and alleys.
By tradition the procession is accompanied by musicians playing old songs of devotion to the Saint. Amongst all instruments “zampogne” (bagpipes) play an important role. Here is Francesco, with other friends musicians paying and leading the procession
Then they reach the main square where fires are still burning from the previous day and where during the day the holy blessing of animals has taken place. Old stories, probably dating back to pagan rituals, say that animals where to be led through two fires to purify them from disease. Many religious rituals still performed nowadays find their origins in old pagan traditions reinterpreted and incorporated into the Catholic Church’s own tradition.
Then the procession continues to the streets of the older part of the village (just to mention the older, upper part of Luco dei Marsi was once a village on the rivers of the Fucino Lake, a natural lake drained in the late nineteenth century…but this is a nice story for another post!).
Along the course of the procession there are improvised refreshment posts where you get a glass of warm wine, fries, “cicirocchi” (corn kernels cooked in salted water for 10 hours) dressed with oil and pepper and traditional “panini” made for the occasion by local bakeries and named “St. Anthony Panetta”. This special bread gets the priest blessing before being served. “Panetta” and “cicirocchi” are simple peasant food. By tradition every participant to the procession gets a portion of this food and can ask for an extra portion to take home to the elderly or sick ones not able to be part of the procession.
Our friend Francesco Sabatini, school teacher, professional “zampognaro” (bagpiper) and amongst the very few artisans in Italy still making “zampogne” (bagpipes) in his lab, is preparing for us new interesting posts. If you want to get in touch with him and ask him info. about his passion, “zampogne”, or local related traditions you may contact him by mail at email@example.com