San Donato’s Tre Madonne Easter Walk & Feast of Peace


On Easter Monday, up in  San Donato (AQ), the village hosts a Feast of Peace, when the community comes together with their neighbouring villages and walks a truce, a walk of peace known as the Festa delle Tre Madonna.

The village is the popular 7th stage of the circular 100 km walk, the ‘Cammino dei briganti’.  It connects Abruzzo and Lazio’s, old borders between the Kingdom of the 2 Sicilies and Papal lands and caves with stunning views that the brigands hid.  Here Valentina tells us the story behind this walk of peace on Pasquetta and suggests joining the communities if you are in Abruzzo over Easter and like to take a beautiful walk, share some communal food, particularly fiadoni, Abruzzo’s famous Easter pastry ravioli and for a morning revel in the idea of ‘peace’.


I hail from San Donato, a quaint hamlet nestled in the Tagliacozzo municipality. Today, I’m eager to share a cherished tale steeped in the rich history of my village. It unfolds during the annual observance of Angelus Monday (Easter Monday) – the day when the ‘Procession of the Three Madonnas’ or the Feast of Peace transpires, blending religious reverence, age-old customs and our eternal longing for peace.

This revered and much-loved ceremony traces its origins back to 1639, and was meticulously documented by Bishop Lorenzo Massimi during his pastoral visit to Marsica. In his accounts, he vividly depicts the gathering: “on the second day of Easter, the clergy and people of S. Donato converge to meet the processions from Gallo and Tivolaro, and Poggio Filippo, escorting them to the church of S. Erasmo.”

Anthropologists classify this rite as a ‘ritual of truce’. Legend has it that once, strife marred relations between the villages of San Donato, Poggio Filippo, and Gallo over land disputes. To quell the discord – that had sometimes erupted into violent clashes – a reconciliatory procession under the Virgin Mary’s patronage was proposed, thus christening her Madonna della Pace (Our Lady of Peace).

 

Each village crafted its banner adorned with the Virgin’s likeness, sparking rivalry and envy. To mitigate tensions, identical embellishments were added to the three holy images. As the toll of bells heralds the ceremony, Gallo and Poggio Filippo set forth towards San Donato, their Madonna borne by three maidens clad in white, known as ‘festarola’.

Upon the horizon’s embrace, San Donato’s procession commences, extending a warm welcome to Gallo’s inhabitants. The Madonnas exchange nods before joining to greet Poggio Filippo’s faithful, signifying the renewal of peace with solemn knocks.

Tradition dictates a communal repast as villages converge, sharing Easter delights and extending goodwill in the spirit of peace. Among the culinary delights, the ‘fiadone’ – a Marsican delicacy lovingly crafted by local women – reigns supreme.

Following the feast, a triple procession wends to the church of Sant’Erasmo di San Donato for a traditional service. As mass concludes amidst jubilant fireworks and pealing bells, Gallo and Poggio Filippo’s Madonnas bid farewell to San Donato’s Madonna before retracing their steps homeward.

The subsequent Sunday, San Donato’s citizens journey to Poggio Filippo, the festarola proudly bearing her banner. After the exchange, she returns home, uniting the villages in a symbolic gesture of solidarity.

These poignant traditions form the bedrock of our communities, deserving of preservation and reverence. They embody our shared history and faith, a legacy to cherish and uphold. I extend a heartfelt invitation to partake in this timeless event, where the essence of tradition permeates the air – from the aroma of sweet delicacies to the echoes of history carried by modern-day festarola proudly bearing their heritage.

Do check out the property that Valentina’s family are selling privately  in this popular village for hikers and have a go at their Sultana Fiadone!

The Route of Il Cammino dei Briganti Walk

 

VALENTINA DI MARCELLO
Author: VALENTINA DI MARCELLO

My name is Valentina, originally I am originally from the small Abruzzese village, San Donato, a hamlet in the municipality of Tagliacozzo (AQ). I have a degree in Economics and Commerce, I work in an accounting firm, but for some years I have also been helping my mother in managing a B&B called "A casa di Giulia" as the village, being just 5 km from Tagliacozzo, is a destination for both summer and winter tourism and a stopover on the 'Camino dei Briganti' (3rd most traveled path in 2023).


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