Acquapendente is the city of the Feast of pugnaloni, large mosaics of flowers and leaves, the fruit of creativity and dexterity of the inhabitants, especially young people of the village of Tuscia.
The pugnaloni are made in honour of the feast of the Madonna del Fiore, or Mezzomaggio Festival, which is celebrated every year on the third Sunday of May. The origin of this festival dates back to the dawn of time, and mixes history and legend together.
In 1166 Acquapendente, tyrannized by the lieutenant of Federico Barbarossa, rebelled against the power imposed to regain their freedom, destroying the castle, the symbol of imperial power.
Tradition tells us that the revolt resulted from an extraordinary event (a miracle) that two peasants announced to the Acquesian people. The two, while working in the fields, had witnessed the miraculous blossoming of a cherry tree now dry, that was taken as a symbol of oppression by the citizens of Acquapendente.
The event was interpreted as a sign of the protection of the Madonna and the subsequent reconquest of freedom gave birth to the tradition of this feast in homage to the Virgin.
The pugnalone is a symbol of the victorious freedom over oppression and fruit of the centuries-old evolution of the goad, an iron tool similar to a spikey spatula, tied onto a long stick that acts as a handle. The goad had the dual purpose of cleaning up the plough from the incrustations of earth during the ploughing and of pricking the oxen to make them proceed quickly to work.
In ancient times only the goads were carried in procession, and adorned with branches of broom. The ‘fantasy’ of the “Acquesiani” has reworked them and, over the centuries, today’s pugnaloni were born.
The pugnaloni are today panels, 2.60 meters wide and 3.60 meters high, covered with marvelous mosaics of leaves and flower petals, inspired by the universal theme of peace and freedom.
The parade of the pugnaloni preceeds the procession of the Madonna del Fiore.
Acquapendente then suddenly gets coloured by nature. The blue of the cornflowers, the orange of the marigolds, the green of the ivy contribute to create a impressive context. When the event is over, the pugnaloni are transported to the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre where they are jealously guarded and exhibited throughout the following year.
Until the ’70s the pugnaloni were made by small groups of five to seven people, mainly family members, and took the name of the sketcher or one of the makers. Today the groups are much more numerous, twenty or thirty participants, and the works take the name of the group that produces them.
Since 2010 the names of some groups have been changed: a famous street or location of Acquapendente is linked to the historical name. At the end it was decided to adopt the name of the village directly, definitively eliminating the original name of the group.