- 09. 12. 2023
- 17:00 - 23:00
‘Ndocciata di Agnone
Table of Contents
The ‘Ndocciata di Agnone
A breathtaking fire spectacle in the heart of the Molise region
In the enchanting region of Molise, more precisely in Agnone, a small town in the province of Isernia, one of the most impressive fire spectacles in Europe takes place in December: the “Ndocciata di Agnone”. This festival celebrates the millennial tradition of fire, which heralds the Christmas festivities.
The ‘Ndocciata di Agnone takes place twice in December
On the second Saturday in December (December 9, 2023) in memory of the ‘Ndocciata held in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for Pope John Paul II and on December 24, the eve of Christmas.
In this event, dozens of men carry on their shoulders the torches, up to three meters high and composed of two to twenty fires arranged in a particular way, through the streets of the village of Agnone, located on a steep rocky promontory high above the valley of the Verrino River.
The bearers wear traditional shepherd’s coats and represent the five districts of Agnone. They must withstand the intense heat of the fire and bear the weight of the torches as they spin and dance in ancient peasant and pagan rituals associated with the winter solstice.
Women and children open the procession with the flags of the groups and scenes from peasant life.
The “Ndocciata di Agnone” is recognized as a traditional heritage of Italy. It is the largest Christmas fire festival in the world.
The ‘Ndocciata, held in Agnone, a mountain village in Alto Molise in the province of Isernia, is the most evocative Christmas fire tradition known. Those who have witnessed this spectacular and fascinating fire spectacle report a long and indescribable feeling that can only be experienced live. A feeling that Pope John Paul II also wanted to make possible for Romans and pilgrims from all over the world in 1996, when he opened the feast in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The origins of the tradition of the fire lit on Christmas night in Agnone go back to prehistory. The ‘ndoccia (dialect expression for “great torch”) was certainly originally part of the pagan rituals associated with the winter solstice on December 21. The ancient connection between man and fire, which has always been considered the primary source of life, fertile and purifying element of nature, is well known.
Five groups and neighborhoods participate in the parade of the ‘Ndocciata di Agnone:
- Contrada Sant’Onofrio – The historic group founded in 1932, when the first ‘ndocciata.
- Contrada Guastra – This group is located in the Capracotta area and is made up of people who live both in the countryside and in the city.
- Contrada Capammònde and Capaballe – This group consists almost exclusively of young people from the city.
- Contrada Colle Sente – This area is located in the high mountains between Monte San Nicola and Montecastelbarone.
- Contrada San Quirico – This district is located in a valley and is rich in olive groves and vineyards.
Every year on December 9 and 24, at nightfall, the groups of Contrada Capammonde and Capaballe, Guastra, San Quirico and Sant’Onofrio, composed of hundreds of porters of all ages, light the “Ndocce” under the cheerful ringing of the 100 bells of the city and move to the main square of the village. The road turns into a gigantic and fascinating river of fire.
The highlight of the evening of the ‘Ndocciata di Agnone is the “Falò della Fratellanza”, a huge bonfire around which the contrade gather for the final celebrations. Here the “Ndocce” are thrown into the fire and the night is celebrated with song, dance and community spirit.
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Photos: © Di Alvimas – Opera propria, Pubblico dominio, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121448981