The Historical Carnival of Ivrea is a unique Italian event of international importance, as acknowledged in the communication by the President of the Council of Ministers of 27.09.1956 (Sheet No. 02999/894 File 02999/894.). A “dream” that is repeated every year, bringing, history, tradition, spectacle, excitement and solemn ideals to the streets and squares of the town of Ivrea. In this event history and legend mingle to create a spectacular sequence crossing the centuries.
The spirit of Carnival lives through the re-enactment of the city’s liberation from tyranny dating back to Medieval times: a baron who starved the city was driven away thanks to a miller’s daughter who rebelled against the “ jus primae noctis” and roused the people to revolt. In this commemoration every year the new version of the Carnival is celebrated as Festival involving the whole town, during which the community of Ivrea can show its self-determination.
Completing the gallery of historical figures are the Assistant Grand Chancellor (Sostituto Gran Cancelliere), Magnifico Podestà guarantor of freedom in the city, the parade with the Flags of the Parishes (Bandiere dei Rioni) represented by the Abbà and the Pipes and Drums (Pifferi e Tamburi).
To fill the city with colour and scents, there is then the famous, spectacular Battle of the Oranges, in which the fighters identify strongly with the people’s rebellion against tyranny.
In the battle the people, represented by orange throwers on foot without any protection, pelt oranges at the feudal lord’s army, personified by others throwing oranges from horse-drawn carts, who wear protective masks reminiscent of ancient armour.
In order to show their involvement in the event, from the Thursday before Lent all townspeople and visitors who take to the streets wear the “Phrygian cap” (“Berretto Frigio”), a red stocking-like hat that shows their support for revolt and therefore their aspiration to freedom, as it was for the heroes of the French Revolution.
A bit of history
From what we know today the various parts of the Carnival can be dated as follows.
Basic components (up to 1858, when the development process ended):
1.1 the Scarlo (of Medieval origin)
1.2 the ceremony of the zappata (slightly later)
1.3 the Abbà (16th century)
1.4 the Pipe and Drum Band (17th century)
1.5 the General (early 19th century)
1.6 the first Libro dei Verbali (1808) and later
1.7 the General Staff (1815-1820)
1.8 orange-throwing (1830-1840), later turned into a battle in 1947 with the setting up of orange-throwing teams
1.9 the Gran Cancelliere (1821) and the Sostituto Gran Cancelliere (1845)
1.10 the Flags of the Parishes
1.11 the Mugnaia and her retinue (1858)
1.12 the symbols of Carnival:
1.12.1 the Phyrigian hat
1.12.2 the Pich and Pala
These are the twelve core elements featured in Ivrea Carnival, which make it unique.
Around this original core, other ceremonies and characters have been added over time and these can be divided into three categories.
2.2 Ceremonies invented by tradition
2.2.1 The parade and military rituals of the General Staff
2.2.2 The Order and Investiture ceremony of the Oditori et Intendenti (1969)
2.2.3 The handing over of the Libro dei Verbali by the Gran Cancelliere to the Sostituto
2.2.4 La Prise du Drapeau (1980s)
2.3 Ceremonies involving all the community
2.3.1 The Fagiolata of Castellazzo (second half of the 19th century)
2.3.2 The Fagiolate in various areas of the city (later)
2.3.3 Goliardia: AUC (1924) and SOAS (1961). The fiaccolata goliardica (1947)
2.3.4 Polenta e merluzzo
2.3.5 The festival on the last Thursday before Lent and the “Amis ad Piassa d’la Granaja” (1985)
2.3.6 Il trofeo Pich e Pala, competition of who can throw oranges furthest (1989)
2.4 Ceremonies and characters connected with the history of the city
2.4.1 La Croazia and the reconciliation ceremony of the districts (1880/90)
2.4.2 The Podestà (1932?) and the preda in Dora
2.4.3 Ceremonies inspired by the Middle Ages and the Credendari (1985)
2.4.4 I Citoyens (1999) and the planting of the Tree of Freedom (as in 1798)