The tradition of Cuccagna a Mare is a variation in purely Gallipolian sauce of the Cuccagna tree, a popular game whose participants must try to take prizes, usually foodstuffs, placed atop a pole. Usually the pole is covered with grease or other substance that makes it difficult for contestants to climb.
The origin of the Cuccagna seems to lie in the arboreal cults widespread throughout Europe beginning in the Celtic area, the so-called May festivals, which would be a persistence of the ancient fertility cults central to agricultural populations. Such festivals centered on the May Tree, venerated as a symbol of the new season and its promises of abundance.
In Italy, the use of the cuccagna tree discussed here is said to have been introduced by Charlemagne’s Franks, and the Kuchen (the fruits of the tree), vainly defended by the rightful “worshippers” by fattening the trunk from which they hung, hence the name “Cuccagna”; the term, even without the tree, describes extemporaneous abundance won by skill, and not accumulable. (source wikipedia)
Returning to Gallipoli, it is necessary to go back to 1867 when the miracle attributed to St. Christine is said to have occurred. A cholera epidemic (at the time mistaken for plague) was underway; sick people were isolated in a lazaretto located near the present Circolo della Vela; the story goes that a dog wandering around the lazaretto licked the feet of the sick and that miraculously those, after a few days, were cured. The first celebrations in honor of the Saint, co-patron saint of the city, and thus also the beginning of the tradition of the Cuccagna a Mare, are historically placed around 1890.
At that time, the city of Gallipoli consisted only of the current Old Town, the Borgo did not yet exist, and in the immediate vicinity, across the bridge, there was only the Greco-Roman Fountain.
In 2017 the flag was achieved by Antonio Bianco but for the previous years a real roll of honor for the event seems never to have been officially drawn up.
The names of some of the winners from past editions are listed below, in no particular order, and we thank anyone who would like to help us reorder perhaps chronologically the list:
Ppinu “Callipuli”, 6 times
“Bastacamangi”, at least 2 times
“L’Onestu” (Giorgio Mele)
Marcello “Ciarasa”, at least 2 times
Tony Carretta, winner for 11 consecutive years in recent editions, up to 2016
Antonio Bianco (2017)
We thank Giuseppe Siciliano (aka Ppinu Callipuli) who has been organizing this event for about 25 years.
Special thanks go to Prof. Gino Cuppone who made available to us much of the information in this article, which is part of his memory, as a historical member of the St. Christine’s Feast Committee, and certainly best known for being for decades the main organizer/presenter of the Gallipoli Carnival as well as the presenter of the last editions of the Cuccagna a Mare.
Another thanks goes to Gianni Fedele for the wonderful photos taken for 2017: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nerdosity/
There are definitely still many things to discover about Gallipoli’s “La Cuccagna a Mare.” If you should be in possession of useful information that can help us reconstruct its history you can contact us by clicking here
Puntone – Pontoon, large pontooned and towed float for inland and port traffic (bridge); usually a special vessel, barge with crane, equipped for coastal work, such as the arrangement of breakwaters and breakwaters, docks and piers.
from GALLIPOLI E IL SUO MARE – G. Schirosi – 2002
Photo Gallery of the Cuccagna a mare – Gallipoli 2017
Gianni Fedele Photos (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nerdosity/)