Corteo Storico di Quattro Castella
I have so many unfinished draft posts, I’m going to start pounding these out — punctuation and coherence be damned!
It’s been four years since I sold all and moved to Italy and there is a semi-famous festival nearby that I have managed to consistently miss every year for one reason or another. The Corteo Storico at Quattro Castella, which is very similar to our Renaissance festivals, is an annual festival to celebrate the 1,000 year old cash cow known as Matilde of Canossa. Part of what makes it so well known is the promise of two beautiful celebrities who come to town to play the parts of Matilde and Heinrich IV, King of Germany to reenact his famed trip from Germany to Canossa to grovel at the feet of Matilde and to return to the good graces of the Church. A story that spawned the phrase, “The Walk to Canossa,” used as both a battle cry of the Ottoman Empire to not cow-tow to any outside force and a metaphor for doing penance.
I don’t want to sound sour, but this is one of the very few times I’ve had to buy a ticket to get into a festival, let alone pay for parking outside of one. A Springsteen concert, no problem. A small medieval festival in a town I’ve been in countless times with a “Dancing with the Stars” runner up as the main attraction, my enthusiasm wanes. Do I sound sour?
Arriving about 9pm, most everything in the lower part of the town was closed up, the stage from earlier events broken down and all of the food carts covered over. This was the last day of the three day festival and the main action was was in the field beneath Castello di Bianello. The locals were dressed in period clothing, some as soldiers with weapons and others with the tools of their trades for their characters. The stadium where games of soccer are usually played was overflowing from end to end with spectators watching sword fights and fire dancers in front of a stage constructed for the final scenes with Matilde and Heinrich.
I wandered the mercato in the street below the stadium whose vendors peddled handmade goods of the period such as armor for knights, swords, handmade clothing, pottery, toys and beer. Well, no, the beer wasn’t handmade but it was the only thing I bought. Having explored the streets, I walked back up into the stadium just as the “Parade of 1,000″ began, which was a procession of around a thousand locals dressed in costume walking out onto the field grouped by their individual communities. It’s not uncommon for summer festivals to run late, and this was no exception. Already after midnight the reenactment of Matilde and Heinrich wouldn’t begin for another half hour.
Eventually Matilde and Heinrich walked onto the stage and sat in their wooden thrones while the famous European story was recited by a faceless actor with a deep booming voice. And he recited. And he recited some more. My Italian has improved, but long periods of passato remoto make my eyes cross so I unfortunately missed a lot of the story, but Wikipedia saved me in the end. Apparently after Heinrich begged for forgiveness and his excommunication from the church was lifted, he returned to Germany only to lose his throne to evil Saxon warlord, David Hasselhoff. Oh Wikipedia, ever the source of accurate information.