Sardinia is a song in an ancient language

Sardinia is a song in an ancient language that tells about fantastic legends and extraordinary everyday life.

29 September 2022
A place where ordinary life stories become extraordinary tales, as in the case of the “Riflewoman of Oliena”. Tzia (Aunty in Sardinian) Maria Palimodde was, in appearance, an old Sardinian lady like many others. A face marked by age, a slender body, a black veil on the head and the dark eyes of someone who has lived a lifetime. However, there was something that distinguished her: every year, during the Easter ritual of “S’incontru” (“The Meeting”), she would go out on her balcony slinging her late husband’s rifle and fire two shots in the air as per tradition before retiring inside to celebrate with her family. S’Incontru is the ritual, between liturgy and theatrical performance, between paganism and Catholicism, that stages the encounter between Mary and the risen Christ on Easter Sunday. It represents the moment when the risen Christ meets his mother and bows to her, hence she lifts the mourning veil indicating the end of it. Oliena’s S’Incontru is one of the oldest in Sardinia. Established in 1588, it has been historically marked by a peculiar tradition. At the moment when the statues of the Risen Christ and Mary, supported on two canopies arriving from opposite sides of town, face each other, people watching from their balconies fire their rifles. All this is done in the utmost safety with blank bullets and with the involvement of the police. Firing symbolizes the end of the mourning silence. Traditionally, it had been the men who would harness their rifles and fire as the statues passed by, while the women used to take an active part in the procession. Tzia Maria decided to break the mold, probably also due to her age that made it no longer easy for her to participate in the procession on foot, thus paying homage to the Easter tradition in her own way. The lady, in fact, was very fond of S’Incontru having grown up in front of the church of Santa Croce, starting point of the Christ statue’s parade. She would fire two shots, make the sign of the cross and return indoors in her silence. After her, other women began to shoot. And so it was that from a story like many others, a tale was born and it still fascinates the young and the old, to the point that Luigi Columbu, a Sardinian artist from Oliena, decided to dedicate a mural to this lady in her hometown. On Carrera de Palathos, you can still find the painting portraying Tzia Maria holding her rifle. The mural was made in 2006 when Maria, who was still alive, gave permission to be portrayed, but on one condition: to be depicted in black in respect of the mourning for her husband. A reminder that even in the most fragile body and the most humble and sensitive soul hide the strongest pride and tenacity.
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