Italian traditions: Rama di Pomm Contest
- WTI Magazine #121 Nov 17, 2019
On November 11, 1608, Cardinal Federico Borromeo visited a parish church in Gallarate on a pastoral visit, in Lombardy. The main chapel, closed by a wooden plank, was finished, while the nave was still without a roof.
Above a temporary altar, where the canon G.M. Bonomi, the first chaplain of the Sanctuary, celebrated Mass every day, the venerated effigy of the Madonna was transported. In 1622, on September 25, the nave was covered and the interior decoration of the temple began. The fresco, removed from the wooden altarpiece, was solemnly placed in a rich marble frame around which the monumental high altar was erected.
In 1628, an Alemannic army descended to Italy to conquer Mantua. Among these troops of fortune, the plague had always meandered. After having raged on Milan, the epidemic spread unstoppable throughout the upper Lombardy. In July 1630, despite cries and quarantines, the disease also entered Gallarate. The whole village and the surrounding villages were infected. Only in Gallarate, inhabited by about 2500 souls, the deaths exceed the number of 450.
In such helpless desolation, the inhabitants of Gallarate turned to the ancient Madonna, making a public vow: if freed from the contagion, they would solemnly celebrate the Feast of the Presentation on November 21, coming on pilgrimage to the Madonna in Campagna. They were also joined by the inhabitants of Verghera who, by public deed drawn up by the Gallaratese notary Cesare Lomeno on December 17, 1630, promise to come on pilgrimage on November 21 of each year.
In November of the following year the scourge disappears. The votive feast of the Rama di Pomm was born, getting its name from the ancient custom of selling apples (pomm) stuck on the thorny branches of Gleditzia in the churchyard of the Sanctuary: a legend, in fact, tells of a wild apple tree miraculously bloomed in November 1631 next to the Sanctuary.
In 1948 the Palio dei quattro rioni (Palio of the Four Wards) was born, which amplified the participation in the celebrations for the "Rama di Pomm": the Citizens from the Countryside, the Drizuni from the Tirasegn, the Paisaan Quadar and the Privilegiàa from the Campanin compete every November in bowls, volleyball, table tennis, table football, triathlon and cards. On Sunday, yellows, reds, greens and blues compete for the final victory in the tug of war, the race of apples and the inevitable race of donkeys.
All this while the streets around the sanctuary come alive with traditional stalls, charitable fishing and a stand entirely dedicated to apples.