Do you recall the legend about a black Madonna, two oxen and a shepherd?
Well, today (Apr 23), like every year since the 18th Century, the Icon of the Virgin is brought by a shepherd and a sheep along with many pilgrims, back to Sovereto after having spent the winter in Terlizzi’s Cathedral.
Today it’s a big celebration but it’s nothing compared to the “Festa Maggiore” (Bigger Feast) that happens in August. On the first Saturday of the month, She returns to Terlizzi and on Sunday She is placed on the “Carro trionfale” (Triumphal Chariot).
It’s a wooden building 22 meters high, moved by 60 men underneath it and led by four steersmen. These four men have a huge challenge since they have to drive this machine around the main streets to reach the Cathedral, with some critical junctions to overcome.
To remind the legend, the triumphal chariot plays two oxen on the front. One of the two has a bloody eye.
The chariot has stairs where many children sit. At the top there is the Icon of the Madonna, with the shepherd and the sheep. The machine ends with a baroque bell tower.
Once the chariot reaches the destination, the local tradition is to remain in the streets and eat grilled meat, cooked by the butchers (probably one of the first examples of street food, although only seasonal :-)).
The feast lasts three days overall, starting on Saturday and ending on Monday night with Concerts and fireworks.
P.S. If you are interested in being here during the Festa Maggiore, please double check on the exact dates. The tradition is to celebrate it during the first weekend of August, but sometimes it can happen on the second one.