The three day Easter festival and the procession of the Madonna del Galeano is celebrated each year in the town of Torchiarolo over Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and the Tuesday after.
The origins of the festival date back to the days of the 16th century, when a local farmer unearthed an icon of the Virgin Mary whilst ploughing his fields with a horse. He took his find to the local landowner and clergy, and after discussions, it was decided that a small Church should be built three kms outside of the town, at the site of the find in Galeano and to be dedicated to the Blessed Madonna.
Thus was the origins Madonna of Galeano created.
In the period preceding the festival each year, the four districts of Torchiarolo compete against each other, (San Nicola in yellow & red, Giardino Grande in green & black, San Antonio in red & black and Madonna delle Grazie in blue and white) in a football tournament, other games and contests are also assessed and the results determine the level of honour during the procession.
During the year, the jewel encrusted banner and collection casket are stored in the bank vault for safety, with the Statue of the Madonna herself residing in the Church of Maria Santissima Assunta on via Umberto in the main piazza
On Easter Sunday there are spectacles and shows in the main square, with fashion shows using the local girls of the town as models, brass bands play in the afternoon and at night under the spectacular light display a live band plays on a specially erected stage.
On Easter Monday, a crowd gathers outside the Church in the Piazza, and the Madonna is borne on a litter, carried on the shoulders of volunteers in a procession to the Church of Galeano with a crowd of around 2,000 people following.
The Bishop celebrates an open air Easter Mass in the olive groves around Galeano attended by up to 5,000of a congregation – many arriving in cars from outlying areas.
In the evening the procession leaves Galeano and, just as darkness falls, it arrives back at the outskirts of Torchiarolo coinciding with a thunderous and spectacular fireworks display.
Now the procession reorganises, preceded by the precious jeweled banner of the Madonna and the offertory casket, the Madonna enters the town under the illuminated route and is carried by the men of the district that were placed fourth in the contest table, whilst behind the crested flag of Torchiarolo donated by the Comune for the day is carried aloft.
Passing through the town, the litter bearers are replaced by the district placed third, then later by those that were placed second.
Finally as the parade enters the final stretch up the main Piazza, the winners of Palio bring their load up to the stand where the Bishop blesses the procession, offers prayers for the town and its inhabitants and the Madonna is brought back into the Church where she will stay for another year.
The Carabiniere accompany the Madonna, and any inhabitant of the town serving in any of the security or armed forces of the State attends the procession in full uniform and regalia.
The town is awash with lights and colour for the three days of Easter, with craft stalls and kiosks offering local food and traditional snacks, the crowded streets are full of chatter and easy laughter as people celebrate this religious event.
But what of the original icon found by the farmer ?
Legend has is, -that being jealous of the Madonna’s patronage of Torchiarolo, men of the neighbouring town of San Pietro Vernotico broke into the Church where it was kept and stole it. Citizens from Torchiarolo, finding out its hiding place were able to wrest it back and return it to its sanctuary in Torchiarolo.
The story does not end there however, today it is a very old replica that is displayed in the Church, with no-one knowing where the original is now.
Was it hidden away with its location lost over time?… or was it stolen again ? Nobody knows.
Just 5 kms from any of Place in Puglia Villas, an Easter holiday at one of our Villas must surely include an evening spent in the town and experiencing this event, an historic and traditional celebratory festival.