Celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures

Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2011 by Rete delle Grandi Macchine a Spalla Italiane
Catholic processions featuring large shoulder-borne processional structures take place throughout Italy, but particularly in four historic city centres: in Nola, a procession of eight wood and papier mâché obelisks commemorates the return of St Paolino; in Palmi, bearers carry a complex processional structure in honour of Our Lady of the Holy Letter; in Sassari, the Discesa dei Candelieri (Descent of the Candlesticks) involves the votive transportation of wooden obelisks; and in Viterbo, the Macchina di Santa Rosa (Tower of Santa Rosa) commemorates the town’s patron saint. The coordinated and equitable sharing of tasks in a common project is a fundamental part of the celebrations, which bind the communities together through the consolidation of mutual respect, cooperation and joint effort. Dialogue among the bearers who share this cultural heritage also results in the development of an exchange network. The celebrations require the involvement of musicians and singers, as well as skilled artisans who manufacture the processional structures and create the ceremonial clothes and artefacts. The festive communities rely on the informal transmission of these techniques and knowledge to recreate the structures every year, a process that aids cultural continuity and reinforces a strong sense of identity.