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Historic torchlight procession of Canalicchio - Collazzone

In the territory of Collazzone, the historic torchlight procession of Canalicchio is held every year on the evening of May 1st.  This propitiatory rite of pagan origin has been staged through the streets of the village for centuries without ever losing its charm. 

In Canalicchio, a splendid castle / village nestled in the countryside between the towns of Collazzone and Gualdo Cattaneo, the ritual of preparing the torches and the torchlight procession has been handed down for generations, as part of a series of propitiatory rites closely linked to the liturgical calendar.  The cutting and preparation of the torches begins at least one month before the feast of The SS. Patrons Filippo and Giacomo and of the bishop S. Atanasio.  In the courtyards of the houses or outside the walls of the castle, the “peeling” of the pine trunks and the “splitting” of said trunks is carried out using billhooks, (specialized pruning tools), hatchets and wooden wedges.  After splitting the trunks and inserting the wooden wedges, the "worked" end of the torches are circled, to make them assume, after the drying process, an almost perfect circular shape.  Drying takes place either in old wood-burning ovens or outdoors in the heat of the sun. 

On the morning of May 1st, the torches are placed, in an upright position, along the walls of the castle.  In the early afternoon  a procession will take place that winds along the same path that will then be repeated in the evening by the torchlight procession.  The religious part of the rite is entrusted to the Confraternities of the Rosary and of the SS. Sacramento, present in Canalicchio since ancient times.  The prior of St. Athanasius is responsible for organizing the torchlight procession.

In the days preceding the feast, the inhabitants of the village prepare sweet foods that are distributed, together with wine, to the torch bearers during the event.  After the religious procession, at the sound of the Ave Maria, the oldest "fiaccolaro"(torch bearer), begins to light a large bonfire outside the castle.  In this fire everyone lays the points of their torches for a collective lighting and then proceeds in the route of the church of San Fortunato.  The road on which the torches pass is rapidly transformed into a very suggestive "way of fire" that continues tunnel-like in the night.  During the torchlight procession, the invocations of the torchbearers are raised into the air: "Ave Maria", "Evviva Maria!”  These two invocations are the most frequent exclamations linked to the "Marian month" that is just beginning.  One can also hear invocations to the patron saint, St. Atanasio, especially at the end of the procession, when the men gather around the unburnt parts of the torches piled up outside the castle walls. 

Once the "rite of fire" is over, the remains of the torches are given to the Prior of S. Atanasio who will use them for the preparation of a luncheon, which is reserved for the torch-bearers on the following day.  The other remnants of the torches are given to the Parish Priest for the heating of the parish premises.  Year after year, the success of the torchlight procession- the integrity of this path traversed with the lit torches, is an element of great satisfaction and felt as a good omen for the harvest of the current year.

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