La Varia di Palmi
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La Varia di Palmi:
A tribute to the Madonna della Sacra Lettera
Every year, on the last Sunday of August, the town of Palmi in the region of Calabria shines in a special splendor. On this day is celebrated the Varia di Palmi, one of the most important religious events in Calabria. The celebrations are dedicated to Maria Santissima della Sacra Lettera, the patron saint of the town of Palmi. The Varia di Palmi is a perennial event that aims to represent the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, and this is done through a huge float that is pulled through the streets of the city. This festival, which has enlivened Palmi for centuries, has a fascinating history.
The origins of the Varia date back to January 11, 1582, when the Senate of Messina gave the inhabitants of Palmi an extremely precious strand of hair of the Madonna to express their immense gratitude. The Calabrian city had offered hospitality to the many plague-stricken people from Messina after the plague claimed thousands of victims in June 1575. From that moment the devotion to the Madonna della Lettera became extremely strong among the inhabitants of Palmi. The first records of the Varia di Palmi, dedicated to the Madonna, date back to the 17th century and go back to 1872, when it was suspended by municipal ordinances. However, the prestige of the festival was restored in 1900, thanks to the ingenuity of Giuseppe Militano, an inventor who designed the huge float that is still used in the parade today. This float must be carried by volunteers called ” ‘mbuttaturi”, two hundred porters to be exact. In 2013, the Varia di Palmi was included by UNESCO in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as it encompasses various interests (cultural, artistic, religious, culinary). The hair of the Madonna is kept in a showcase in the Concathedral of San Nicola.
Did you know that the gigantic float consists of a conical structure covered with white and silver papier-mâché, symbolizing the clouds and the sky? On the highest point of the float is enthroned the Madonna, called Animella, represented by a young girl who embodies the mother of Jesus.
The Varia di Palmi is not only a religious event, but also a cultural and artistic event that fills the whole city. The celebrations begin on the last Sunday in August and attract numerous believers and onlookers from the region and beyond. The streets of Palmi are decorated and lit, and the atmosphere is filled with anticipation and excitement.
The centerpiece of the Varia di Palmi is undoubtedly the impressive float, which is the main attraction of the parade. This float, called “Varia”, is a true masterpiece of craftsmanship. It consists of a portable structure supported by ” ‘mbuttaturi”, the strong men of the city. The float is decorated with elaborate decorations, flowers and symbols of the Virgin Mary. On the highest point of the float is enthroned the “Animella”, a young girl symbolizing the Madonna. She is surrounded by a cloud and looks over the crowd.
The procession begins in downtown Palmi and passes through the narrow streets of the city. The ” ‘mbuttaturi” carry the heavy float with great devotion and effort, accompanied by prayers and chants. The streets are lined with people admiring Our Lady and the float, offering flowers and prayers. The atmosphere is solemn and moving, and the faithful are deeply immersed in their prayer.
Throughout the procession, the town of Palmi is gripped by a magical atmosphere. The streets are lit with candles and lanterns, and the smell of incense fills the air. Music accompanies the procession, and the sounds of traditional songs and chants fill the night. The Varia di Palmi is a unique experience that appeals to the senses and touches the hearts of the faithful.
However, the Varia di Palmi is not only a religious event, but also a cultural heritage that is passed down from generation to generation. Preparations for the festival begin months in advance, and the entire community is involved. Workshops are held to teach the artisan skills needed to create the float, and traditions and customs are carefully preserved.
The Varia di Palmi is not only a celebration for the faithful, but also an opportunity for the entire community to come together and celebrate their cultural identity. It is a moment of unity and pride for the people of Palmi, who are proud to keep alive this centuries-old tradition.
The Varia di Palmi is a unique event that focuses on the beauty of Calabrian culture and spirituality. It is a celebration of devotion, community and tradition that unites the people of Palmi every year. The Varia di Palmi is more than just a religious event – it is a symbol of Calabria’s faith and cultural diversity.
Photo © Tourismo Reggio Calabria