Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.19

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Italy has nominated Celestinian forgiveness celebration (No. 01276) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Celestinian forgiveness celebration was inspired by Pope Celestine V, who issued a historical ‘Bull’ as an act of partnership among local populations. Taking place in the city and province of L’Aquila, the tradition comprises a set of rituals and celebrations transmitted uninterruptedly since 1294. The practice conveys a sense of continuity and cultural identity for the whole community. The ‘Forgiveness Walk’ opens with the lighting of the ‘Fire of Morrone’ and its descent, accompanied by a candlelight procession. The procession proceeds along a traditional itinerary marked by the lighting of tripods in each of the twenty-three villages involved, where the mayor signs a parchment recalling the Bull’s symbolic values. The community gathering ends on 23 August in L’Aquila with the lighting of the last tripod. Drums, clarions and flag bearers enliven and mark the rhythm of the Parade, which involves 1000 citizens dressed in traditional costumes. Participants walk along with the three main characters – the ‘Lady of the Bull’, the ‘Young Lord’ and the ‘Lady of the Cross’ – symbolizing the traditional values of the celebration: hospitality, solidarity and peace. The meanings and traditional practices of the element are transmitted through tales told at home, in schools and in community gathering places, and the community’s constant participation in the celebration has ensured its viability over time.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The Celestinian forgiveness celebration constitutes a symbol of reconciliation, social cohesion and integration. It reflects the act of forgiveness among local communities, promoting the values of sharing, hospitality and fraternity. Furthermore, it strengthens the communication and relationships between generations and creates an intense emotional and cultural engagement.

R.2:   As an element capable of involving a large community of people, irrespective of gender, age and origin, within a strongly shared vision of social cohesion, the inscription of the Celestinian forgiveness celebration would contribute to ensuring the visibility of intangible cultural heritage. It would also promote cultural diversity by involving migrant resident communities and foster human creativity through the inclusion of different kinds of artistic expressions.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures for the Celestinian forgiveness celebration have been well-formulated with the communities concerned, who were at the core of their design and will play a central role in their implementation. Most of the measures are aimed at promoting the social functions and cultural meanings of the element and include research, documentation, transmission and promotion through a web page and an app. The municipality and government support the practice financially and participate in its documentation and safeguarding.

R.4:   In 2009, the Forgiveness Committee, as the representative community, has launched a consultation at the local level in order to submit the nomination. During the nomination process, the community and the different stakeholders have followed consultation and collaboration procedures. These have helped raise awareness of the importance of the Celestinian forgiveness celebration as an element of intangible cultural heritage and of its sustainable safeguarding for the entire social fabric involved.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage / 2003 UNESCO Convention in March 2018. The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism – Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation is the office responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory.

  1. Decides to inscribe Celestinian forgiveness celebration on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee to refer the nomination in 2015, including an exemplary community-based methodology for the preparation of the nomination;
  3. Further commends the State Party for acknowledging the possible negative impacts of tourism by proposing creative safeguarding measures to prevent such threats and welcomes its initiative to adopt a code of behaviour addressed to tourists and attendees to respect the practice;
  4. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity and mode of updating of the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage / 2003 UNESCO Convention, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention.