At noon, on the first Sunday of August, the village of Tollo in the province of Chieti returns to the sixteenth century. It’s the site of the historic battle between the Turks and Christians. As part of the celebrations of Madonna del S.S. Rosario, or Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, over 80 participants face off and fight with iron swords in a realistic reenactment. The battle comes to a symbolic end when a little girl (playing the angel) appears indicating to the contenders the appearance of the the Madonna del Rosario or Madonna dei Turchi, or Our Lady of the Holy Rosary also known as Our Lady of the Turks.
The men of the village, appearing in the event, are divided into two teams; the Turks wear turbans and colorful cloaks and the Christians uniforms and white tunics. The groups, led by a commander, after having walked through the streets of the village and receiving the blessing of the clergy during the solemn mass, confront each other armed with swords and wooden spears mimicking the assault and defense of a fortified tower. Raised for the occasion in the town square, Christians are barricaded inside. Just when the Turks are about to win, an angel appears from the tower, representing the intercession of the Virgin Mary in favor of the population of Tollo.
The reenactment of the battle between Turks and Christians is among the oldest in Abruzzo and in Italy.
The event recounts the episode that occurred in the second half of the sixteenth century, around 1566, when Suleiman II (called the “Conqueror” by the Turks ) entrusted the command of his fleet to the Hungarian Pialì Pashà and ordered the invasion of the city along the Adriatic coast. The Turkish fleet rejected by the fortress of Pescara pointed a little further south, disembarking at Francavilla, on 30th July of that same year, and in Ortona on 1st August. Other Saracen hordes, in those same days, aimed in the immediate hinterland. In Tollo, according to local history and tradition, the Turks failed to penetrate the stronghold of the country where all its citizens were barricaded resisting their repeated attacks. It was a prodigious event demonstrating the piety of the faithful and the intervention of the Virgin who spared the town from such a misfortune.
This reenactment is unique, spectacular and exciting. Every year a tower of iron and wood is erected to symbolize the stronghold, destroyed long ago, under which the battle develops. You’ll be captivated by the persistent rhythm of the scimitars’, the shouts of the Turks attacking the town, the drum roll, and the Christians who defend the stronghold with water, pasta and pieces of watermelon, which symbolize the hot oil and burning stones used long ago.
The event was first reenacted in Tollo in the late nineteenth century and every year since, with the exception of wartime and other calamities.
The event is organized by the Municipality of Tollo in collaboration with the Tollesi Festival and Traditions Association and the Cultural and Recreation Battle of the Turks and Christians
photo copyrights: https://it-it.facebook.com/AssociazioneTurchiECristiani/; italiaatavola.net