Festa dei Pugnaloni

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The festival takes place between Saturday and Sunday. It is a festival of pugnaloni: beautiful mosaics made out of petals, flowers and leaves, a folklore element of the festival of the Madonna del Fiore (Madonna of the Flower). This is an ancient festival and is unique in its kind; it dates back to the liberation of the town of Acquapendente from the yoke of the tyrannical government of Frederick I il Barbarossa, which took place in 1166. According to tradition, the victorious revolt arose from an extraordinary event which was announced to the people of Acquapendente by two farmers. These farmers, working in the fields, had witnessed the blossoming of a cherry tree which had long been dead. This, withered cherry tree had been taken as a symbol of the oppression endured by the people of the town. This was the signal of the protection of the Madonna. The population rose up and drove out the ruler, destroying his castle. In remembrance of this much longed for rebellion, the community decreed to have a big festival every year in the middle of May. The Pugnaloni represent in an original way the universal theme of freedom which wins against every form of oppression. Pungoli (ancient agricultural tools) are the ancestors of today's Pugnaloni and the peasants would carry them, decorated with flowers, in the procession behind the statue of the Madonna del Fiore. The fantasy of the people of Acquapendente has elaborated them and, with the passing of the centuries, the present-day Pugnaloni were born. These works of art are large panels measuring 2.60 m x 3.60 m (7 ft x 10 ft), completely covered with flowers and leaves which follow every colour shade of the picture. The technique is that of the mosaic. The young people of the town who put together the panels, challenge each other in a true kind of competition which only allows the first six to qualify for judgement. The prize-giving takes place at the end of the day in the main piazza of the town and all are on tenterhooks to learn who will be the winner.