“Parmureli” (palm leaves) of Sanremo and Bordighera donated to the Pope.

Sanremo and Bordighera, March 2008.

Every year on the occasion of Palm Sunday the cities of Sanremo and Bordighera offer to the Vatican City a unique as well as important and symbolic tribute: the traditional “Parmureli”.

It consists in manually weaved palm leaves compositions which are an ancient craft; they come from two of the most important cities of the Riviera for what concerns the cultivation and the presence of palm trees on its territory (Bordighera holds the record of Europe’s most northern palm tree presence).

The donation and transport to Rome is available thanks to the help and organization among different societies such as the Palm Research and Studies center, the social co-op “Il Cammino”, the Catholic Church’s Foundation for Art activities and Goods, the city halls of Bordighera and Sanremo.

Over 2000 compositions are distributed in Piazza San Pietro to all the people present for the blessing; 100 1 m long “parmureli” are given to the Cardinals and the highest and greatest is the one reserved for his Holiness the Pope.

The tradition of donating the palm fronds to the Pope during the last Sunday before Easter has ancient origins: everything began in the year 1586, when upon the order of Pope Sisto V the ancient Egyptian obelisk that had been brought by Caligola in the year 36 b.C. had been erected in Piazza San Pietro.

Domenico Fontana, an architect, organized the repositioning project of the obelisk which is 26 m tall and weighs 350 tons. It required the use of 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 cranes.

On September 10th, the day in which the task must have been accomplished, people gathered around the location of the event but, due to the risk and difficulty of the job, the Pope made a decree where he would have sentenced to death whoever had opened their mouth to speak or shout.

At a certain point of its elevation, the obelisk wobbled dangerously and the ropes that where holding it where almost breaking, when a daring captain from Sanremo, Capt. Benedetto Bresca, cried out loud: – Aiga ae corde! (water on the ropes) – and by following his advice the Vatican engineers where able to erect the obelisk on the place where nowadays stands.

The Pope didn’t punish the instinctive Ligurian Captain, he praised him instead offering to him and his descendants the privilege of giving tribute to the Vatican for Palm Sunday with the weaved fronds of these plants which are numerous in the Riviera of Flowers.

In the past twenty years this important tradition hasn’t been taken much in consideration, but thanks to the interest of several societies and the city halls of the two cities of the Riviera, this consuetude which is over four centuries old has recently been recovered and is giving prestige and importance to a holy ceremony that brings Western Liguria to promote an event that carries on the cultural art of weaving.