Festa della Madonna della Bruna, commonly known as Festa della Bruna, is a religious feast held every year since 1389, on July 2, in Matera, in honor of the patron saint of the city, Madonna della Bruna.
The origins of the festival are not very clear. The custom, handed down from one generation to the next, has been enriched over time by innumerable variations.
The legends tells that a farmer, in his way to Matera, took a young lady in his cart. Near the town, she got out of the cart and asked the peasant to tell the Bishop that she was the mother of Christ. When he heard that, the Bishop, along with the clergy and the townspeople, rushed to welcome the Virgin, but they found a statue in her place. The statue of the Madonna was brought to the city on a decorated triumphal chariot. Today, the statue of the Madonna is located in the transept of the Matera Cathedral.
Until the 16th century, the feast was characterized mainly by a procession that took place at dawn, called the Procession of the Shepherds (Processione dei Pastori), in which the shepherds, early in the morning, wandered along the streets of the town in honor of the Madonna della Bruna.
In the 17th century, a wooden triumphal chariot was used for the translation of the statue of the Madonna during the procession, and knights dressed in Roman uniforms began to accompany the chariot. At the end of the feast, the chariot was destroyed.
In the 18th century, by a Bourbon decree, the procession took place only in the morning. In the next century, the decree was suspended, and the procession took place throughout the day, from morning to night.
In the 20th century, the tradition takes the shape we know today, with impressive accessories and decorations, with fantastic illuminations and fireworks, for the pleasure of both locals and tourists alike.
The 630th edition of FESTA DELLA MADONNA DELLA BRUNA will take place on July 2, 2019. The feast will begin at 5.00 am with a Holy Mass held in Piazza San Francesco D’Assisi, followed by the Procession of the Shepherds. Later, the statue of the Madonna will be carried in procession from the Cathedral of Matera to the Parish of Piccianello. The knights dressed in medieval costumes will accompany the statue.
In the afternoon, the chariot with the statue of Maria Santissima della Bruna will return to the Cathedral, and the statue will be placed into the church. Once the religious part of the feast is over, the pagan custom will begin. The chariot will be taken to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, where it will be destroyed by the crowd.
Festa della Bruna will end at night with a fireworks display which will illuminate the Gravina and the beautiful Sassi of Matera.