“Like A Walking Tower”

Macchina Santa Rosa

Every year on the 3rd of September, this takes place in my town, Viterbo.

La Macchina di Santa Rosa, a religious celebration that has been taking place in Viterbo for centuries, is, beyond the religious aspect, simply breathtaking. And it’s quite hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it.

From an engineering standpoint, you have this 5-ton tower-like structure (made of steel, aluminum, polystyrene, plaster, paint water) that is carried through the narrow streets of Viterbo by 100 men. That alone is quite a feat, considering the complex calculations that take into account center of gravity, weight, and shape of the Macchina to ensure those men can bear with oscillations (on average, each man carries 80 kilograms with oscillations up to 150 kilograms on a single shoulder – see this photo to get a sense of how they do it).

The Macchina has never fallen in modern history, but back in the ‘70s the center of gravity was miscalculated, and the “facchini” (the men that carry it) had to stop after a few minutes.

From a geographical point of view, Viterbo features a lot of uphills and downhills, so taller facchini often need to move in the back lines, and vice versa, for balance. In the narrower streets, where the top of the Macchina could touch the rooftops of nearby houses (thus posing a risk for balance, weight, etc), the “guides” have to instruct facchini to “put their heads in”, as you can see in my video.

Oh, and in the last part, they run. To ensure the Macchina won’t trip backwards in the very steep climb at the end (see left part of the image here), the men carrying the Macchina have to run, while others help pulling the base with ropes. See this video.

Or try it yourself.

But above all, the Macchina is just amazing to see, no matter what you believe in or the amount of engineering details you want to know about it.

The Macchina is a symbol of strength, passion, friendship, and collaboration that has no equal.

It’s a reminder of what men are capable of doing when they’re working together.

 
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