Guardia Sanframondi is a town and comune in the Province of Benevento, in Campania region, in Italy. It is best known for its wine production, the wine festival Vinalia and for its penitential rite held every seven years.
|Comune di Guardia Sanframondi|
|Frazioni||Santa Lucia, Sapenzie|
|• Mayor||Floriano Panza|
|• Total||21.1 km2 (8.1 sq mi)|
|Elevation||428 m (1,404 ft)|
(31 August 2017)
|• Density||230/km2 (610/sq mi)|
|Demonym(s)||Guardioli or Guardiesi|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Patron saint||St. Philip Neri|
|Saint day||26 May|
Guardia Sanframondi is distant 28 km from Benevento, its provincial capital. It comes as a characteristic medieval town dominating the entire Telesina Valley. The town is situated on the slopes of a mountain called Toppo Capomandro and it is very close to the river Calore, which runs through the nearby Telesina Valley. The upper areas of the town are characterized by conifer and oak woods, whereas the foot of the town are dominated by vast green expanses of vineyards and olive groves.
Guardia boasts a majestic medieval castle, from which it is possible to admire the vast Telesina Valley. Most of the historical center is accessible only by foot through narrow, stone, stepped streets and walkways. Much of the old town, where people once used to live, is now almost uninhabited, although there have been some improvements thanks to the opening of new restaurants, art exhibitions and the renovation of old crumbling houses.
There are different opinions about the origins of Guardia: some scholars think Guardia dates back to Roman or Samnite times, others claim it was founded during the Lombard era, still others believe that it belongs to Norman period. Nevertheless, it is certain that this territory has been inhabited since ancient times. The Lombard origin of the town is reflected in its name; Guardia Sanframondi originated from the Sanframondo family, who held the fiefdom of Cerreto Sannita and its surrounding areas in the 12th century. The town was called Warda, which means “lookout” or “guard ” because of its geographic position. Sanframondos built a huge castle in order to control the entire valley. In the early 1600s the village is known to have had a prosperous period thanks to leather workers, becoming a rich and important economical center. In the 1800s the Sanframondo family was succeeded by the Carafa family (the Counts of Cerreto Sannita). In October 1943, the town was destroyed by US army in the World War II. In the following years the town's historical center was subjected to depopulation, whilst houses have steadily been built in and around the surrounding area outside the old town walls. Nowadays the community consists of more than 300 foreign people. Many of them have moved to Guardia from US, Scotland and other countries, offering a contribution for cultural exchange.
Guardia hosts a riti settennali di penitenza or penitential rite every seven years. The rite honors the discovery of a Madonna and Child statue found in a field hundreds of years ago. The rite consists of a series of processions the week following the Assumption. Until recently, the rite was only known locally, but as residents moved elsewhere in Italy and abroad, word of the rite has spread. It has become something of a homecoming event. There are four components of the rite:
The four quarters of town each form committees to organize a parade of "mysteries" (religious scenes), with volunteers in period costumes from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Lives of Saints. The neighboring towns of San Lorenzo Maggiore and San Lupo join with the committees to stage a few of the mysteries. In 2003 there were about one hundred mysteries in all. During the week each quarter of town has a separate procession through its own neighborhood. On Sunday all the quarters form a grand procession. The participants hold a pose depicting a particular moment of the mystery as they walk through town—they do not act out events. The committees informally compete with each other to put on the finest mysteries.
Each quarter also forms a choir that joins the processions. Traditionally the choirs were formed of unmarried girls, but recently married women, and occasionally men, have joined in. The women wear white clothing, a symbolic crowns of thorns, and braided cords around their shoulders.
During the neighborhood processions, several flagellanti ("flagellants") join in. They gently strike their backs with a metal scourge. On Sunday, the procession is joined by several hundred battenti ("beaters") who strike their chests with a spugna (literally "sponge," it is really a disk of cork holding dozens of pins). Designated helpers pour white wine on the sponges during the procession, supposedly to ward off infection. There are a few dozen flagellanti during the Sunday procession, who also provide crowd control. The flagellanti and battenti are anonymous. They wear white hoods and are not even supposed to tell family members they are participating. Scourges and sponges are not carried openly or displayed in homes after the rite. The battenti are all men, although a few of the flagellanti are women.
Additionally there are a few dozen symbolic child flagellanti. They wear black robes and caps, and very gently swing a small scourge over their shoulders.
The rite ends with the procession of the Madonna and Child statue through the town. After the mysteries start, the statue is removed from the church, at which point a cannon sounds to announce the event. The procession stops and everyone kneels for a minute. When the statue makes its way to the town center, the battenti walk in front of it on their knees. When the procession continues, the crowds follow the statue, or walk backwards in front of it. The procession ends as the statue is returned to the church. All-night vigils in the Church of the Ave Gratia Plena continue for several days.
- "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
- "Popolazione Residente al 1° Gennaio 2018". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.