The city of the Sassi is the cradle of an ancient handicrafts with roots in the folk and pastoral art. The local craft includes excellent works in ‘terracotta’(earthenware), tuff, wood and paper mache. Over the centuries the processing of chewed paper has gained an artistic and spiritual role.
During the 600 years old ‘Festa della Bruna’, a religious festival in honour of the Patron Saint, the paper machè works became popular. The chewed paper process have been handed down from generation to generation by the craftsmen of Matera which create the triumphal float for ‘Maria Santissima della Bruna’, Patron Saint of our city. For the Festival on 2 of July is manufactured a Float rich in decorative details, holy and allegorical elements realised with the chewed paper process: paper pieces or pulp, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste. This paste can be shaped easily and once dried coloured and decorated.
The floats moves towards the centre of town with the statue of the Virgin, after the procession it returns to the central square where in the frenzy, the crowd of spectators rips papier machè relics off the chariot which is completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.
The legend tells of an unknown woman appeared to a peasant that returned to the city on his cart. The girl asked for a ride, and when they arrived in front of the Cathedral the girl turned into a statue whispering to the man this words: “Every year, I want enter in my city on a decorated chariot.” Every year the float is destroyed to build a new and more beautiful chariot.
During your stay in Matera you will find some papier machè relics sacked from the chariot of the past Festivals. These relics, jealously guarded by those able to obtain them, are the testimony of the ‘strazzo’ (the destruction of the float), and are believed to bring good luck for the entire year. If you pay attention you will notice this relics in some shop windows or bar and restaurants.