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  • Viterbo Wonder

Viterbo’s Wonder, La Macchina di Santa Rosa

Date: October 17, 2012 - categories: , , , - 2 Comments

La Macchina di Santa Rosa (photo thanks to

“La macchina di Santa Rosa” is not the “car” of Santa Rosa, nor of anyone for that matter: it’s not even a car…but a “construction”, to put it in very understated simple terms. Imagine a curvaceous steel, aluminum, fibre glass tower of gold, silver, greens and ochre, nearly thirty meters tall, weighing around 5 tons, illuminated with 1200 LED lights decorated with 900 handmade textile roses, 9 tall and delicate angels – and carried on the backs of over 100 men through dark medieval backstreets lined with “the locals”, awaiting with bated breath….and you are JUST beginning to get a sense of the wonder.

The transport of the Macchina is rooted in the 13th-century when the Viterbo Saint’s body was transferred from her burial place to the Poor Clares’ church (now called “Santa Rosa”) upon Papal mandate. The canopy and then altar-like constructions carried in her feast day procession until the 18th-century metamorphosed into belltower like structures in the last century and the papier mache’ used gave way to steel, aluminums and fibre glass, assuring a fireproof and lighter Macchina.

Every five years, a design competition is launched for a new Macchina: contest guidelines now mandate that la Macchina must be 28 meters higher than the shouiders of the facchini, (“porters”, i.e, the carriers), weigh not more than 5 tons and can be no wider than 4. 3 meters (Viterbo’s medieval backstreets are narrow!).

Cathedral blessing ceremony

The arduous tryouts for facchini take place at the end of June: a 150-kilo load must be carried for 90 meters on an elliptical-shaped route, etched out on the floor of the ex.Chiesa della Pace. The selected facchini will carry la Macchina di Santa Rosa about 1-1/2 km through darkened streets, with stops in five places.

Before the transport of La Macchina, i facchini receive the traditional blessing “in articulo mortis” at the Church of San Sisto. I was there: che emozione! i spoke to the middle-aged mother of one of the younger facchini asking her if she was worried about the task ahead of her son. “Ma no..perche/?….Santa Rosa lo proteggera’ ”

After the blessing, just outside the church, the facchini took their places around la Macchina, following the three commands of their capofacchino: “Sotto col ciuffo e fermi” (“Put on your caps and halt”).

An excited crowd awaits the arrival of la Macchina.

Sollevate e fermi” (“Lift and stand still”) and “Per Santa Rosa, avanti!” (“For Santa Rosa, let’s go!”)

Ah, Italy’s endless wonders: we’ve lived just about 1-1/2 hours from Viterbo for over 35 years and only THIS September 3rd, I finely managed to head to Viterbo for the awesome (literal sense, please, not current slang use) festival of La Macchina di Santa Rosa. From now, I’ll never be anywhere else on September 3rd.

See the splendor, HEAR the excitement.

Read more about the facchini in italiano!

See and read aboutin italiano! – the last six macchine

Click here to read about another Latium region favorite, Bolsena


  • Good to hear you made it after 35 years Anne. 🙂 We are also great fans of the Macchina di Santa Rosa and I have featured the event on my blog a few times. 🙂

  • Janet Eidem says:

    Anne, you never fail to capture the fervor of the people of Italy. Thanks for sharing these experiences on such a personal level as only one who is one with the Italians can do.

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