The Varia of Palmi

The Varia of  Palmi is a Catholic festival that takes place on the last Sunday of August, in Palmi, Italy in honor of the city’s patron saint and protector, the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of the Sacred Letter. The event is the main festival of the Calabria region.

The Varia is a huge holy wagon that represents the Universe and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Above the sacred chariot, 200 “mbuttaturi” (carriers) carry 16-meter tall human figures: “Animella” (child representing the Virgin Mary) and human figures representing “Padreterno” God, theapostles, and angels.

The event includes a procession the day before, displaying the painting of “Our Lady of the Sacred Letter” and the shrine of the “sacred hair”.

The event is part of a network of “Celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures”, inserted in 2013 in the list of UNESCO “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. In addition, the Istituto Centrale per la Demoetnoantropologia (“Central Institute of Demoethnoanthropology”) in Rome cataloged the event as “intangible heritage” of the regions of Italy and Rome. Palmi organizes the festival under the patronage of the Province of Reggio Calabria, Calabria, and religious institutions.

The origins of the festival date back to 1582, when the Senate of Messina gave a hair of the Virgin Mary in the town of Palmi, in gratitude for the aid provided to the Sicilian town during a plague. As a result of this gift, Palmi Messina imported the tradition of celebrating the Assumption of Mary with a votive chariot that represent the event.

Since 1900 the Varia has had several awards, including the cover of an issue of La Domenica del Corriere, issue a postage stamp produced byIstituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato and combined with a national lottery