Look what I saw today during a quick walk down to Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza.
Yes! They were putting together the La Rua – the huge obelisk -like structure around which the biggest celebration of the city of Vicenza is centred.
Called Il Giro della Rua, it is held every two years in September, so and even though I have been here just over three years now, I have so far seen it just once – in 2015. Once fully erected, its centrepoint – La Rua – is truly impressive and with its 24 metres it dwarfs the two stone pillars at the far end of Piazza dei Signori – the city’s main square.
I had a chance to see one of La Rua’s buildings blocks up and close today. It was the part with the large wheel with green shells attached to it. From my experience in 2015, I can tell you that at the culmination of the festivities, the wheel starts turning. Based on that and the history of La Rua, the wheel is the central piece of the structure.
The workers spent some time adjusting it in place and then it was time for riposo – the Italian traditional lunch break – so, I didn’t see the other pieces and statues being brought it.
Anyway, this is what La Rua looks like once fully put together.
It is beautiful, isn’t it?!
I took the photo above in September 2015. I am planning to go back to Piazza dei Signori in a few days again and take some new photos of the structure for my portfolio.
Now, if you are wondering how La Rua as a structure came to be and how Il Giro della Rua as a city-wide celebration started, just keep reading.
Many centuries ago in Vicenza the Giro della Rua started as a procession for the feast of Corpus Domini. In 1389 it turned into a proper city festival with the participation of all the guilds, the clergy, the civil and the military authorities and even the colleges of judges and notaries.
The Notaries, specifically, wanted to come up with a new and splendid idea to make themselves truly stand out during the procession. They didn’t just want to carry the traditional candles everybody else was carrying, so in 1441 they appointed four of their colleagues to come up with ideas.
The first idea was to create a special banner representing the Madonna, St. Luca and four angels. This was so successful that in 1444 and with the help of a local painter, Master Giorgio, the Notaries invented a machine called La Rua.
La Rua means wheel and the professional symbol of the Notaries at the time was, indeed, a wheel.
During the procession in 1444 La Rua was the talk of town. It was so popular that in a few short decades, it became a symbol of the whole city of Vicenza.
The tall structure, decorated with papier mache and even live figures, started to be used not just for the Corpus Domini’s procession but for all sorts of events and festivals in the city. The wheel was subsequently turned into an upright carousel and children would ride in it during the celebrations.
In the 16th century the city took La Rua over from the Notaries paying them a fee of five hundreds ducats and the structure continued its transformation from a religious into a secular symbol. It also continued to expand in size and at its peak it was over 24 metres high and eighty people were needed to drag it through the streets of Vicenza.
La Rua changed its appearance in accordance with the political situation too, consecutively taking on the colours of the French occupiers, the Austrian Hapsburgs and, once the Veneto joined the Republic of Italy, those of the Italian flag. In 1928 the structure (decorated with fascist banners) was used for the very last time during a celebration marred by heavy rains. After that it was put away in storage and completely destroyed during the Second World War’s bombings.
In 2010 a special committee took it upon itself to revive the Giro della Rua and its ancient tradition.
So, every two years, at the end of August, a new La Rua is erected at Piazza dei Signori where it remains for the whole of September. Also, in the second weekend of September, a procession takes place along the city’s historical centre.
The procession is formed of representatives of all the arts and crafts guilds, sport clubs, confraternities, military orders and professional organisations in Vicenza and the nearby towns and cities. The central point of the procession is a smaller structure, called ‘Ruetta’, which is carried by local youngsters on their shoulders.
The Ruetta is eight meters high and weighs 400 kg! It is adorned with white flowers representing the colour of Vicenza and it was originally made in 1947 and then recently restored. Here is another picture from 2015 to give you a visual idea.
The procession and the Ruetta complete a full circle through the streets and squares of the historic centre and finally return to the Piazza dei Signori. There a big concert is then held with music and a splendid light show on a stage mounted at the feet of the 24 meters high La Rua.
At the pinnacle of the concert, the wheel of La Rua starts turning. It is a moment eagerly awaited.
It is truly a great event. A real city-wide festival. The best in Vicenza. A night when people show their pride of being ‘vicentini’ or, in other words, citizens of this beautiful and historical city of the Veneto.
If you are interested, click here to read my description of the Giro della Rua celebration held in September 2015. There are several photos of La Rua and the historical procession included.
This year, the celebrations will be held on 9th September. It is a beautiful experience. One that I am really looking forward to.
Did you attend the festivities for Il Giro della Rua in 2015? Or in earlier years? Let me know what did you like the most about it.
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