Last Sunday, Bedonia offered the world a sight for sore eyes; the “infiorata” – beautiful, colourful motives decorated the most antique lane of the town, as well as the square in front of the parish church. What was so extraordinary about these motives is that they were entirely made up of petals of every kind of flowers, as well as cut grass, sawdust, ground coffee, corn meal, coloured salt and ferns…..a tradition which has been kept up since the beginning of the fifties, and arouses more and more interest and collaboration in the population with every passing year.
The occasion was Corpus Domini, which falls 63 days after Easter, and is usually combined with another special event – the First communion for all the town children. This year however was an exception, the youngsters had already approached their second holy sacrament a little earlier on, but this did not stop some of them from turning up in their traditional long white tunics nonetheless.
So that morning the town was celebrating, and the array of colours and perfumes was intoxicating, filling the air with a sense of festivity. But how and why did this lovely tradition begin?
Throughout the year, it is the congregation which goes to church to receive the holy sacraments, but in this occasion, it is the other way around – the holy sacrament comes out of the church, and is brought directly to the people (the only other time this would ever happen would be in the case of administration of the viaticum to a person on their deathbed). Therefore, in order to mark the importance of the extraordinary event, town folk began to lay down a “red carpet” so to speak, on which the priest and the procession should walk. In the fifties, when the custom had just began, elaborate compositions would be set down in Via Divisione Julia, in the oldest neighbourhood of Bedonia, then continued all the way to the church square, along Via Trieste.
In those days, the execution of the work was lead by Angelo Mariani, who is sadly no longer amongst us, although his widow Gabriella still runs a haberdashery shop in the heart of that neighbourhood. He would make out projects of the various designs, the like of which are still being used to this day by the current supervisors – the twins Ilaria and Antonella Chiappari. They create cardboard guides, and use white chalks to draw out all the borders the previous day, and at the crack of dawn, crowds of townspeople muster to help out with the painstaking task of meticulously positioning the various materials used, according to the plans. Not an easy job, when you are either continuously on your knees, crouching or bending down! Luckily many young people chip in, which is just as well!
Thousands of petals, of every colour and of every kind of flower are collected and separated the day before work begins, lovingly donated by all the Bedoniesi. Whole flowers and ferns are also used, ground coffee spells out the words, or artistically shadows them, freshly cut grass, sawdust, coloured salt and yellow corn meal give colour and shape to the designs.
This year it was truly a triumph, given the beautiful weather we are having lately; the decorations remained in their place for the whole morning, and gave Bedonia something to be proud about. We are not always so fortunate, since sometimes rain or wind – or both – ruin all the good work, or even make it impossible to carry out.
This is one of the many traditions of a small mountain town like Bedonia, where old habits die hard, and modern-day living combines with customs of the past – which is what makes us so special.