La Palombella

July 26, 2011 / Local Interest
Orvieto, Umbria

Each Pentecost Sunday for centuries, a large crowd gathers in the courtyard of the Duomo d’Orvieto to celebrate the Festa della Palombella (a previous IN note).

Despite the condemnation of animal rights advocates, a dove is placed in a plexiglass “space capsule” and launched on a zip-line across the Piazza. It arrives at the specially constructed cenacle with great fanfare of fireworks, red flames and clouds of smoke. The dove symbolizes the descent of lo Spirito Santo (the Holy Spirit) on the Apostles. It is said that if the dove survives the traumatic journey, it portends a year of good crops and fertility for the city’s most recently wed couple who vow to care for the dove until her natural death.

Apparently, “la colomba” had other plans this year! Somehow the container opened prematurely and amidst a cheering crowd, the dove made her daring and defiant escape – literally and figuratively she “flew the coop”. The question remains: if a surviving dove signifies a year of favorable crop yields and a deceased dove predicts a weak harvest, then it’s good news for farmers since a liberated dove is most certainly alive and well (spared the traumatic firework propelled journey as well, no less).

But what is the fate of the newlyweds who were deprived of their blessing of peace and fertility? I have no doubt that every bar-caffé on the Rupe (the rock as Orvieto is known) is humming with speculation about this twist of fate! The discourse and theorizing could go on for the next 365 days!

– Many thanks to Evanne Brandon Diner, ItalianNotebook contributor, for the use of the first two images, borrowed from her previous note on La Palombella.

Toni DeBella

by Toni DeBella

A Freelance writer and blogger at Orvieto or Bust, Toni recently packed everything she owns into two suitcases and headed to Orvieto, Italy.  She’s adjusted her tennis game to the clay courts and drinks way too many caffe lattes. 

11 Responses to “La Palombella”

  1. Linda Boccia

    Brava for the dove and how barbaric for people to still be continuing this terrible tradition. There are other ways to predict crop success. Look for them! Some traditions need to be dropped as irrelevent!!! This one has outlived it’s time.

  2. Tommaso

    When it comes to a condemnation (whining) of animal rights advocates, I’ll choose the Holy Spirit every time.

  3. Gloria

    Isn’t Pentecostal a religious sect? I was always taught that it is Pentecost Sunday.

  4. Somedays I think of skipping the Italian Notebook email because I’m busy, but it’s articles like this with a twist, that make me glad I take the time. Bravo!

  5. Rosemary

    I love it! My mother used to tell me about a saint’s holiday where a young girl holding doves was launched across a clothesline type contraption and then released the doves in the center – or was it two little girls who met in the center? It was a Looooong tim ago! But a similar event. Thanks for this very entertaining story!

  6. Toni DeBella

    Hi Rosemary. Wow, that sounds dangerous and kooky. Love to know all the crazy machinations of this holiday tradition…could make a fun “Part II” in the future. :) Toni

  7. Christine Witton

    I always worried about the dove’s trauma – good for the dove this time.

  8. fran politi

    I love love Orvieto. Have gone there on at least at least 4 of my annual trips to Italy. I have sat literally for hours on the stone seats along the store fronts across from the duomo, and I am surprised that you could write about the area without including at least one lone pic of the gorgeous building front!!

  9. Toni DeBella

    Fran, I totally agree with you that the Duomo is one of the most magical and beautiful buildings on the planet earth. We didn’t include the entire front of the Duomo for this article – I guess we were focusing on the dove – but I have written a lot on my blog about its significance to me. Just where you love to sit, I also love to sit – especially on a warm evening. You can look a hundred times at the magnificent facade and each time find a new and different element you didn’t see before. Thank you for writing. Toni


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