Sickles, wash tubs and barrels are percussion instruments to drive the demons away: this is the musical festival in honour of Sant’Antuono (St. Anthony or Anthony the Great). The event is celebrated every year on January 17 in Macerata Campania, today an industrious little town near Caserta, in the past a district of the ancient Capua.
The ceremony takes place every year and every time it attracts thousands of people to the town of Macerata. It is a tradition which has been passed down from generation to generation. The festival is a mixture of religion, folklore and popular participation and lately has drawn the attention of local media. In fact, in 2017, a short film called ‘Libera nos a malo’ was produced for the local TV channel Tv2000.
Because of its cultural, historic and artistic interest, the short film will be submitted to Unesco, in order to support the festival and to recognise St. Anthony’s music as an intangible world heritage.
There are many moments that characterise this ceremony in honour of the Saint. The festival’s floats, popularly known as ‘Battuglie di Pastellessa’ or ‘Carri di Sant’Antuono’ are worth seeing. They are shaped like boats because, according to the tradition, the Saint arrived in the Italian region of Campania by sea. Even though historians have a different version of the story, popular beliefs have prevailed over history.
The musicians, ‘Bottari’, take their place on the boats and perform the long-standing music from Macerata, also known as St. Anthony’s music or ‘Pastellessa’. The name ‘Pastellessa’ comes from a traditional dish, typical of a simple cuisine: pasta with boiled chestnuts.
What makes ‘Bottari’ and ‘Pastellessa’ original are the instruments used in the festival: barrels, sickles, wash tubs and other agricultural tools are used to perform music. The result is amazing: the warmth of the rhythm created encourages everyone to dance and sing along. The music genres and cultures present range from the Italian tarantella to African music and the Brazilian rhythm played by drums, typical of the Bahian Carnival. However, St. Anthony’s festival is not a carnival; it is a perfect mix of music, folklore and religion- a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors.