Christmas Novena in Morcote


Category:
Social practices
Canton:

Description

In some villages in the canton of Ticino during the Christmas Novena (nine days of devotional prayer), it is still common to ring the bells by hand. The village of Morcote on the shores of Lake Lugano is known for its rituals, including ringing the bells by manually moving the clapper (also known as the biciocá) to make it hit the bell. The bellringers gather in a room with a fireplace, a table and wooden benches in the bell tower, making this ritual a moment of social interaction and sharing. Between 8pm and 11pm, volunteers gather around the table to share food and drink with friends and acquaintances, and take turns climbing up the bell tower to ring the bells. The simple yet festive melodies are passed down orally by the most experienced bell ringers. The event is open to the public, and always draws a large number of visitors from all over the canton and from nearby Italy. A maximum of 10 to 15 visitors fit around the fireplace and on the wooden staircase leading to the bell chamber. Tradition has it that those who visit the bell tower bring along a bottle of wine, a string of pork sausages or a piece of cheese to share with whoever else is there.

Image gallery

  • The bell ringers ring the two smaller bells by moving the clappers by hand to create rhythmic sequences (Morcote, 2012) © Stefano Crivelli
  • The bell ringers ring the two smaller bells by moving the clappers by hand (Morcote, 2012) © Stefano Crivelli
  • A bell ringer working the bells (Morcote, 2008) © Giovanna Ceccarelli
  • Moments of conviviality inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2012) © Stefano Crivelli
  • Moments of conviviality inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2012) © Stefano Crivelli
  • The church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2012) © Stefano Crivelli
  • Moments of conviviality inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2008) © Giovanna Ceccarelli
  • Moments of conviviality inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2008) © Giovanna Ceccarelli
  • A bell ringer working the bells (Morcote, 2018) © Francesca Luisoni CDE
  • A bell ringer working the bells (Morcote, 2018) © Amanda Prada
  • Two bell ringers inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso roasting sausages (Morcote, 2018) © Amanda Prada
  • Moments of conviviality inside the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (Morcote, 2018) © Amanda Prada

References and documentation

Publications
  • Dalmazio Ambrosini: A Morcote il Natale arriva sul «bicioccare» delle campane. In: Giornale del popolo, 22.12.2008

  • Dalmazio Ambrosini: La ricchezza della storia, la bellezza del presente. In: Giornale del popolo, 3.12.2008

  • Antonella Broggi: Campane a festa. In: Illustrazione ticinese, dicembre 2006, p. 38-43

  • Franco Lurà: Natale - estratto dal Vocabolario dei dialetti della Svizzera italiana. Bellinzona, 2016, p. 39-45

Documentation