The Madonna of the hens: the ancient paganese festival between faith and folklore

by Roberto Iossa

Tradition has it that in XVI century of the hens, scratching the ground on the eighth day after Easter, they brought to light a picture of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is the unanimously recognized story behind the Madonna of the hens venerated to Pagani, in the province of Salerno.

But more than a cult it is a real event which amazes for its cultural richness and which attracts every year to this country hundreds of thousands of faithful and popular folklore lovers from all over the world. Let's immerse ourselves with enthusiasm in the incredible world of "mom 'and all' and moms“.

madonna delle galline pagani

The seven bells Madonnas

The Madonna of the hens is one of the so-called "Seven Sisters“, Madonnas venerated in as many sanctuaries scattered throughout the Campania region with a truly characteristic popular participation and cult. In addition to the protagonist of our story there are: Madonna dell'Arco of Sant'Anastasia, Madonna of the Baths of Scafati, Madonna dell'Avvocata of Maiori, Pacchian Madonna of Castello di Somma Vesuviana, Madonna of Materdomini of Nocera Superiore and Madonna of Montevergine in Mercogliano.

And among the "Seven Sisters”Our Lady of the hens is certainly among the most venerated. There would be so much to say about his spectacular party that it is impossible to enclose everything in one article. But it is at least a duty to describe yours milestones.

madonna delle galline pagani

Friday: the opening of the sanctuary

The feast of Our Lady of the hens begins on Friday in albis. Its characteristic, in fact, is that it is not celebrated every year on the same date but is moved according to Easter.

The current Sanctuary was built starting in 1610. Until that date the sacred effigy had been kept in the oratory of theAnnunziatella, also called "Undressing". In this place, in fact, the members of the ancient "Confraternity of the Nunciata in Pagani" (the current "Archconfraternity of the Madonna delle Galline“) They undressed their clothes to put on the sacks prescribed by the rite to accompany the faithful to the burial.

The fame of the icon grew more and more also by virtue of the numerous miracles attributed to it. Thus it was decided to build the current church, initially known as "Santa Maria del Carmine to the square". The sacred image was then reproduced on canvas probably by the famous painter Andrea from Salerno, to prevent it from being lost forever. In the 1954 the church was finally elevated to Marian Sanctuary.

From Easter Monday to Friday the Sanctuary is closed to the faithful. All around the city is shivering with preparations for the party which officially begins on Friday in albis. In fact, on this day the "rite of the opening of the Sanctuary“.

madonna delle galline pagani

Already in the early afternoon, the faithful gather in front of the churchyard. At 18:00 the doors of the church are opened amid the overwhelming jubilation of the crowd, lo flutter of white doves, the shrill voices of the singers and the incessant pounding of the castanets and of tammorre, typical folklore musical instruments. This is how the party begins! And from this moment on, the city of Pagani is transformed.

The Sunday procession

There statue of the Madonna delle Galline, festively decorated and surrounded by birds of all kinds brought as gifts by the faithful, is honored by an incessant stream of people who for three days pour into the Sanctuary to ask her a prayer and adore her.

There Sunday the statue comes out of the church and becomes the protagonist of one very long procession which covers all the city streets. He withdraws only in the very late evening, as one of the most famous songs of the popular tradition recalls:

“… 'A Maronna jesc' 'and nnove
... and he will retreat 'at calata' and 'll' ora "

madonna delle galline pagani

During its solemn parade the statue of the Madonna of the hens is welcomed by a multitude of paganians (and not!) that piles up on balconies. Flower petals and confetti are thrown and frenzied dances follow one another at a fast pace. A riot of folkloristic elements which is inextricably intertwined with the litanies and prayers of the faithful in procession. Because the Madonna of the hens is this: an inextricable intertwining of sacred and profane, faith and popular tradition.

The toselli: the profane heart of the party

The other gravitational center of the feast of Our Lady of the hens are the so-called "toselli". In fact, in the historic courtyards of the city profane altars which flaunt, among other things, the sacred effigy of the Virgin adorned with drapes, lace, flowers and peasant tools. In the vicinity of these preparations, the people gather to dance, toast and eat in full respect of tradition. THE do you sing follow each other seamlessly in a flow of raised arms, "tammurriate", dance steps and succulent food and wine delicacies.

madonna delle galline pagani

The term "tosello" would derive from Spanish dosel”Which stands for“ canopy ”. In turn, the Spanish term seems to refer to a type of wheat (“Tosello”, in fact) with which the pagan altar was set up. Here is how the whole complex history of a territory is enclosed in a single term: the ancient Roman origin, the popular tradition, the Spanish influence.

And in the houses ?! In the home, typical gastronomic products are consumed without reserve: tagliolini with meat sauce, grilled artichokes, salami, country wine and so on and so forth. There isn't a single corner of Pagani that doesn't exude an air of celebration these days.

madonna delle galline pagani

The deposition of the tammorre

With the Eucharistic celebration the holy feast ends on Sunday evening. That profane continues a few more hours. In fact, at six in the morning on Monday, all the "tammorrari”They meet in front of the Sanctuary to have the final rite. Here the symbolic takes place deposition of the tammorre“, A gesture that definitively marks the end of the holiday.

There would be many other things to tell, all the result of a historical, artistic, folkloristic and religious basin of unique dimensions. So the only suggestion that can be given to the curious is to experience this event firsthand. Because you cannot say that you really know Pagani if you have not taken part in the celebrations of the Madonna of the hens!

madonna delle galline pagani

For further information Click here


  • G. Sinatore, History of the Feast of the Madonna delle Galline. Events, testimonies and inferences, SeT Editions, 2008.
  • S. Russo, Between faith and folklore: rites and rituals of yesterday and today in the Agro nocerino-sarnese, North-South Editions, Scafati 2001.
  • F. Belsito - C. De Pascale, History of Pagani in brief. Monuments, characters, traditions, Editrice Gaia, Angri 2014.
  • G. Sinatore, Madonna de 'Pagani called de' Galline, Pagani: New Pro-Loco Pagani 2014.

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