Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ARCHI DI PANE - BREAD ARCHES

About 38 kilometres north of Agrigento, nestling in hills even higher than the Valle dei Templi [which is not, of course, a valley at all] lies the little town of San Biagio Platani and that is where I headed with two friends on Sunday.

First of all, some views of the surrounding countryside:



These red flowers were everywhere and I'm not sure what they are but I think they might be wild red cyclamens:



But what was going on in San Biagio Platani, a town of 3,547 people?  What was so important that this nocturnal blogger was willing to get up at 4.30 am to see it?

Well, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the people of San Biagio Platani, who at that time numbered less than 1,000, began to make arches and pictures to celebrate Easter:  It was a chance to do something creative and produce objects of beauty in lives which consisted mainly of toil and preparing the decorations allowed the inhabitants to forget their poverty for a little while each year.  They used the materials that nature provided - grain, bamboo, willow, lentils and other pulses, beans and dates - and the women made bread dough and pasta which could also be used.  Rosemary was used as a symbol of death and remembrance, palms symbolised Palm Sunday and bay symbolised knowledge.  The arches and pictures as a whole represented Christ's triumph over death.

The tradition has continued to the present day and two confraternities, the Madunnara [representing the Madonna] and the Signurara [representing Christ] begin preparing the decorations months ahead.  There is no bitter rivalry:  those involved just want to create the most beautiful objects they can and all is unveiled on Easter Saturday morning when the images of Mary and Christ "meet" in the middle of the town's main street.  The Madunnara colour is blue while the Signurara's is red and each confraternity decorates their own half of the main street.  Whilst the overall theme remains the triumph of the Resurrection, a different artistic style is used for the arches each year.  This year it is oriental.


Confraternity banners outside the church


Now, without further ado, I'm going to let you enjoy the sights that we saw on Sunday. Remember that everything you see is made from natural materials or bread dough:


There were 33 of these white bread symbols on Christ's and on Mary's main arches, 
to symbolise the age of Christ at the Crucifixion.







Symbols of palm, rosemary and bay























And finally, who could resist this lovingly crafted bread, decorated with sesame seeds, to take home?



If you are coming to Sicily, the bread arches and other decorations in San Biagio Platini are on show until 1st May 2012.

9 comments:

rosaria williams said...

Stunning! Unbelievable! One of a kind artisanal celebration.

Patricia said...

I have heard of this town and this tradition. I am continually amazed at the human inventiveness!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Rosaria. Yes, I was amazed. Although I had seen pictures, I hadn't expected anything so spectacular. Hi, Patricia. Me, too! It was wonderful.

jams o donnell said...

I have never heard of this before. Thanks!

Claude said...

Incredible! I have never seen anything so beautifully done. And that fresh bread, to take home, crowned a great celebration.Thank you for sharing.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

What a wonderful event to have experienced Pat, as you know we are great fans of such occasions.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Glad you like it, jams. Hi, Claude. Oh, the bread is delicious, as you can imagine. Hi, LindyLouMac. You would have loved it.

Liz said...

Amazing. I bet the one you took home was delicious too.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Liz. It was excellent.

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