Among the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Lazio there is also one belonging to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is Viterbo’s Machine of Saint Rose, a 30-metre-high tower (originally a canopy) weighing 5100 kg, with the statue of the city’s patron saint at the top, that on the evening of September 3 is carried on the shoulders of some 100 men called “Facchini di Santa Rosa,” in a procession through the streets of the historic centre.
This is the most important festival in Viterbo, the “City of the Popes,” the capital of Tuscia and an integral part of Etruria (the territory inhabited by the Etruscans), and recalls the transfer of the body of Saint Rose, patron saint of the city, which took place in 1258.
The event is celebrated in two distinct moments: on the afternoon of 2 September there is a historical parade counting over 300 participants, with a reliquary containing the heart of the Saint carried in procession; on the evening of 3 September (departure at 9:00 pm), to commemorate the Transport of the Saint’s body, the Macchina is lifted and carried on the shoulders of a hundred robust men called “porters” along a route of just over one kilometer through often very narrow streets, flanked on both sides by an impassioned crowd.
The Macchina di Santa Rosa is a tower lit by torches and lights; it is about thirty metres high and weighs about five tons. It offers a spectacle filled with emotion and suggestion, which every year is witnessed by tens of thousands of people from all over the world, crammed along the path of the machine and waiting, sometimes from the day before, to occupy the best places. Every five years, the machine is replaced: “Flower of Heaven” is the name of the winner of the last competition. It is a project that brings together tradition and innovation.
The “Flower of Heaven” is lit by hundreds of candles and embellished with thousands of red roses; inside, three differently-coloured globes represent the phases of Saint Rose’s life: the last one holds her in a cloud of light.