The Descent of the Candle Bearers | I Candelieri 2012

Sassari – August 14th, 2012 – The 2nd largest festival in Sardinia owes its name to the large ‘candlesticks’ which men parade though-out town for a six-hour parade of strength, endurance, song and dance.

I Candelieri was born around 1500, a vow to the Virgin Mary; and to give thanks to the survival of three plagues during the 1600’s, which killed thousands of people on the island of Sardinia.

I Candelieri – The Descent of the Candle Bearers is a festival which embodies the spirit and traditions of Sassari. Its origins date back to the Middle Ages, when Sassari, under Pisan domination, adopted a modified version of the Pisan tradition of an offering, similar to a large wooden wax-covered altarpiece to the Madonna on the eve of the Assumption.

10 candlesticks with 8 men per candle parade throughout the town to the beat of drums, clapping and chanting in local dialect. The last stop, at midnight, is St. Rosario’s Church where every Candelieri receives a midnight blessing from the church.

Gremio dei Contadini – Guild of Peasants 1803

Many peasants during the Middle Ages worked a day for landowners in vineyards and gardens; their work was never regarded with esteem by the upper classes, who used to call them “li zappadori” with the intention of insulting them. The peasants grew weary of the name calling and decided to leave and build their own guild.

Gremio degli Ortolani – Guild of the Gardeners

During the parade the local gremi (farmers, carpenters, cobblers, blacksmiths’, wayfarers, stonemasons, tailors, farming masters, vegetable farmers, and masons) are dressed in the traditional costume of their guild.

The parade is a boisterous, loud affair which brings in over 100,000 people from all over Europe. It’s s spectacular, mind numbing and fabulous traditional festival for all ages.

Balloons, Palms, Candelieri

The Guild of the Locksmiths are an esteemed guild, dating back to 1521. All throughout Sassari you can find ancient locks adorning ancient doors.

Gremio dei Fabbri 1521 – Guild of the Locksmith 1521

The candlesticks are adorned with ribbons, flowers, grapes, flags of the patron saint and images of the guild. Each candlestick represents its guild in a colourful ancient story of life in the Middle Ages.

The pinnacle of I Candelieri is when two guilds come together in song and dance. It’s a sign of respect, good fortune and friendship.

Left – Gremio dei Falegnami 1921 – Guild of the Carpenters
Right – Gremio dei Contadini 1803 – Guild of the Peasants

And the moment 100,000 people have been waiting for …

The Kiss

Click the following link to watch a short video of The Kiss.

The greatest folk celebration that gathers each year on August 14th is a spectacular event to witness. The people of Sassari have been passing this tradition on for 7 centuries; they are proud of its deep civil and regilous origins.

The town stays alive until late in the night with people singing, dancing, eating and praying.

Have you seen I Candelieri? What did you think? Tell me below.

About Jennifer Avventura

Canadian Freelance writer living in Sardinia, Italy. A serial expat who has lived in Australia, England and Cayman Islands. She eats Nutella with a spoon and hides under the bed during lightning storms. When she's not out running 6k you will find her sitting at the computer - writing her novel and searching for worldwide waitress work.
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19 Responses to The Descent of the Candle Bearers | I Candelieri 2012

  1. Pingback: VIDEO – The Kiss | I Candelieri 2012 | My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda

  2. joesard says:

    For longer than I feel comfortable to disclose I have worked with 2 colleagues who were both born and bred in Sassari, but evidently it takes a Canadian expat to fully explain an otherwise totally incomprehensible event. Thanks indeed Jenny a great report and photos are suberb (off the record do you suffer from insomnia – where do you find the time to do all that stuff??)

    • Thank you Joe! I don’t suffer from insomnia, just happen to have a lot of free time on my hands. My friend and I see the candelieri entering the church; as with tradition they are always late. They entered the church this night at 1:30am we left the event at 11:30pm!! Im sure the priest will have choice words for them.

  3. umbriascribe says:

    Beautiful post, Jennifer! The video was wonderful–gave us a vivid picture of the excitement and sounds. Delightful!

  4. Debra Kolkka says:

    I absolutely love the Italian festivals. I feel very lucky to be involved in some of them. This one looks great.

  5. Alberto Mario says:

    Jennifer, just a few details on the “Gremi”: they are now 10: Massai (Farmers, the most ancient, the last Candeliere down the parade, and the 1st one back into the church – the other Candelieri will wait for it), Sarti (Tailors), Muratori (Masons), Calzolai (Cobblers), Ortolani (Gardeners), Viandanti (Wayfarers), Falegnami (Carpenters), Contadini (Peasants), Piccapietre (Stonemasons), e Fabbri (Blacksmiths). Of these 10, only the first 6 are the “historical” Gremi, as they are the only ones dating back to the XVI century, that never missed a Faradda and were never dissolved. Although the Viandanti changed name, as they were known as Mercanti (Merchants) back then.

  6. Giuseppina says:

    I come from Sassari so I was there on Tuesday. It was a great event as it is every year! Your photos and eapecially the video are wonderful!!

  7. Giuseppina says:

    Sorry I meant especially!

  8. Woman says:

    NEAT!!!! I love traditional things!!!!

  9. Pingback: Sassy Sassari a Photographic Day Trip | My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda

  10. Reblogged this on My Sardinian Life and commented:

    The second biggest festival in Sardinia is about to kick off tomorrow night in Sassari, I Candelieri. Will you be there? I went in 2012, the following post is my awesome experience there. I hope you have fun too!

  11. Pingback: The Descent of the Candle Bearers | I Candelieri 2012 | Villa Nuraghe in Sardinia

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