The “Fiaccole” in Abbadia San Salvatore: a ritual of fire to light up Christmas

Author: Barbara Palladino
Translation by Michelle Nebiolo

According to an ancestral ritual passed on from generation to generation, a number of wood stacks are set up in Abbadia San Salvatore, in the province of Siena, before the holidays – ready to be set on fire on Christmas Eve.

Every year, the residents of the town near Mount Amiata start preparing for the event as early as the fall, looking for the perfect wood to build their stacks: known as “fiaccole”, they are pyramids as tall as seven meters, which each district (“terziere” in the local vernacular) of the Medieval center carefully puts together, fine-tuning every detail as if they were small monuments of rural tradition.

In this ritual of fire, religious and pagan symbols merge and man is bonded and nature, in a celebration of the mountain that looks over the town. The event begins at 6pm on Christmas Eve, with the “Ceremony of Ignition” and the “Blessing of the Fire” officially starting the celebrations. Once the “fiaccola” in front of the City Hall is lit, the Capi Fiaccola take their blazing torches along the alleys of the town, fueling the flames of tens of wood stacks that illuminate the entire historical center.

Every year, the Abbadia San Salvatore community celebrates this ritual with a whole calendar of events and charming Christmas markets, which create an irresistible, evocative atmosphere.

Abbadia San Salvatore (Siena)

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The “Fiaccole” in Abbadia San Salvatore: a ritual of fire to light up Christmas

Abbadia San Salvatore


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