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April is the month of the Fiera del Crocifisso Ritrovato (literally the Fair of the Retrieved Crucifix), an event that has very deep roots in Salerno's history. Find out about its origins and what's on the agenda for the XXXII edition!

by Roberta Cascone

Salerno is a city rich in history and traditions that, even though they have changed over time, still play a very important role in the cultural life of its citizens. 
In addition to Christmas and Easter, which are the most cherished festive periods for Salernitanians and the best occasions to gather as a family and share traditional dishes, there are two other events that animatedly involve all the citizens: the feast of the patron saint St. Matthew in September and the Fiera del Crocifisso Ritrovato in the spring.
Have you ever heard of this fair? If you are a fan of history and folklore, you absolutely cannot miss it, and I'll explain why!
In fact, the Fair is a centuries-old tradition: it even dates back to the Middle Ages! In those days it was one of the most important livestock fairs in Southern Italy. It is mentioned in various historical sources and ancient texts, including Basile's "Cunto de li Cunti", which sets a novella precisely at the Salerno Fair. And today, what has this medieval fair turned into? Read on if you want to find out!

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The flag-throwers. Ph by the FB Page of the Fair

The Fair in history and legend

Today, the Fair of the Retrieved Crucifix is an event that is organized in the historic center of Salerno and includes performances, historical reenactments and craft markets. It is always a great success with the public, since it is considered one of the most important historical re-enactment events in all of Italy! Moreover, its origins are really fascinating and mysterious: the fair is in fact linked to the name of Pietro Barliario. The Wizard Barliario is a legendary figure from Salerno, closely linked to the city's history (I told you about him in this article!). According to legend, Barliario was an alchemist who lived in Salerno in the 12th century and was in contact with the king of the underworld, Lucifer. There are many different versions of the legend: the most popular one says that after yet another devilish misdeed, the Wizard Barliario killed his children, only to repent and ask for forgiveness for three days and nights at the feet of Christ Crucified in the church of St. Benedict. And it was there that the miracle occurred: the head of Christ painted on the Byzantine crucifix bowed in forgiveness, and the Wizard decided to become a monk, locking himself up in the same convent of St. Benedict, where he remained until his death. The wooden crucifix today is kept at the Diocesan Museum in Salerno and, although damaged by fire in the 18th century, still has its face and part of its legs clearly visible.
It was precisely to commemorate this miracle that the Fair was established in Salerno, which even in medieval times was a mouthwatering occasion for merchants and buyers. The modern version of the Fair came to life in 1992 with a new formula, including events in medieval costumes, historical re-enactments, craft markets and many street performers brightening up Salerno. Let's see what's on the agenda for the 2024 edition that kicks off on April 25!

The poster of the event. Ph by FB Page of the Fair

The program of the 32nd Edition

The slogan of the 2024 edition was revealed just in these days: "A Thousand Plus - a plunge into the Middle Ages"! The focal point this year is precisely the return to the past, through historical re-enactments, performances by street artists, historical-cultural encounters, music, ancient foods and customs. Organized by the Bottega San Lazzaro together with the City of Salerno, there are many events not to be missed for the 32nd edition of the Fair, which will come to life throughout the city's historic center. 
The start is set for April 25 at 5:45 p.m. in Piazza Duomo, from where the historical procession in period costumes will depart: this will cross the streets of downtown Salerno to Piazza Portanova, where at 6 p.m. the ribbon will be cut to inaugurate the fair and where there will be a performance by the flag-throwers of the Gruppo Città de la Cava "Li quattro distretti - Luca Barba."
Not only that: many other performances are planned for the days of the fair. Medieval music will take center stage with the ErrabundiMusici, who will play copies of ancient instruments (such as flutes, bagpipes, fifes...) and the Devil's Muses, who will perform with bagpipes ancient medieval melodies that have been almost lost over the centuries. The Acrobati del Borgo, on the other hand, combine theater with the circus of the Middle Ages, as do the Circateatro di Urbino, who include commedia dell'arte, juggling, dance and acrobatics in their repertoire. The Falconieri dell'Irno will also perform, showing the audience the beauty of birds of prey and their incredible flights!
But the Fair is not only entertainment, it is above all culture! In fact, cultural events are also scheduled every day, such as lectures on Medieval Salerno, the history of the Wizard Barliario and the Church of St. Benedict, and exhibitions in Museums open for the occasion. For all the events read the program in detail below!
Finally, since the fair occupies the entire historic center, find out all the initiatives planned in the city squares: there will be a craft village, a reconstruction of a medieval arts and crafts market, and even medieval games and tastings... in short, there's nothing the organizers haven't thought of! So don't miss it: come to Salerno and take a dip into the past yourself!

The 32nd Edition Program

The cultural events in program

Tra.Vel.Mar S.r.l.

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  • To keep up to date with the Fair, visit their Facebook page at this link.

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