The magic of the annual Festival of the Fòcara, the largest bonfire in the Mediterranean, was celebrated on January 16th. The bonfire is erected by assembling over 80,000 bundles of dried branches and cuttings, taken from last year’s Negramaro grape harvest, with an impressive 20 meter diameter and 25 meter height. Crowds of over 50,000 watch as the great bonfire is set ablaze.
This festival is held in honor of Saint Anthony The Abbot, an Egyptian hermit who lived in the III century A.D. who is considered the founder of Christian monasticism. Religious worshipping combined with the pagan ritual of lighting a great bonfire is one of the most archaic expressions of peasant culture.
In the town of Novoli, in Apulia, devotion to Saint Anthony The Abbot dates back to 1664 and is represented by a fire, a symbol of purification and good omens for upcoming harvests after the rigors of winter. This year, as in the past, three days of festivities included performances and international guest appearances; this year artist Jannis Kounellis participated in the bonfire’s construction together with local experts; the Spanish theater company Xarxa Teatre, boasting performances on five continents, curated ignition of the bonfire.
Typical Apulian cuisine and fine wines accompanied the entire festival. This year’s event was marked by its solidarity with Paris, France with a 25 meter tall Eiffel Tower illuminated on the evening of January 15th with a banner reading "Focara for Charlie".