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Shootings of Mascoli PDF Stampa E-mail
Pirotino e Manuelo with "mascoli"


In the East Riviera salutes and shots to make merry in patronal feasts have an age-old tradition. They are the civil substitution for military salutes of guns and their use dates back to the XVII century.

In Recco this tradition dates back to the beginning of 1400 and is linked to the cult of Our Lady of Intercession, Patron of the town.

In the church of Megli there is a votive tablet dating back to 1700 where you can see a man wearing a three-cornered hat and following a gundhot of "mascoli".

Besides Parson Giacomo Olcese in his book dated 1896 "Storia di Recco" writes concerning "mascoli": "…on 8th September every year there is an extraordinary number of foreigners that come to Recco to see the solemn religious rites, the wonderful lights, the long traditional gunshots of thousands of small mortars, the solemn and magnifincent procession and the fireworks as well…"

And the great French novelist Henri Stendhal who visited Recco in 1818 on 8th and 9th September wrote: "There was the feast of Our Lady of Recco. I went there with the little granddaughters of the former Doge, who were educated in Flanders in a monastery where my aunt was Prioress. There were ten of us mounted on donkeys… here I hear the noise of guns and small mortars, shot to celebrate Our Lady by these mean and thieving people, which breaks the solitude of these mountains… it's ten o'clock and the show is getting more and more wonderful…"


Shooting of "mascoli" - San Martino Quarter

The salutes in occasion of feasts and events could not be carried out with the guns kept in the fortresses of the Republic of Genoa, and in small centres there were no guns.

So small metal devices were invented, called in dialect "mascoli", easy to load with small quantities of gunpowder, easy to carry and to put where it was necessary to set them, to form drawings which burst in style: the so-called "riondini" (circles).

The use of these devices is common on fest days in every Ligurian town.

The "mascolo" is an icorn cylinder with a flat base which adapts to the ground, between 8 and 15 cm tall, with a thickness (liner) adequate to its size, 1 cm at least, and with a vent on the vertical side, near the base called "aboggino" for the connection of the strip of gunpowder that links all the "mascoli" of a gunshot bursting one after the other.

A "mascolo" weighs about 2 kg, the thickness of the liner prevents the explosion and every "mascolo" is filled with about 15 gr. of gunpowder, pressed and covered with sawdust. Every quarter own and keeps carefully thousands of "mascoli", handed down from generation to generation.

sparat2b.JPG Legendary "Titta" Macchiavello and Verzemma Quarter shooting

A "sparata" (gunshot) is composed of about 1000-2500 "mascoli", half of which are used for the "riga" (line) and the rest for the "riondino" (circle).

The "riga" consists of a line of "mascoli" set on a path of sand at a regular distance of 40/50 cm one from the other, connected by the strip of gunpowder laid on a bed of sawdust.

The acme of the gunshot is the "riondino", a number of "mascoli" set in the shape of a triangle upside down, at a distance varying from 50 cm at the beginning to 10 cm, that burst faster and faster in a crescendo of shots.

At the end of the "riondino" there are some ten bigger "mascoli" called "fulminin" (small lightning) that produce a very loud burst and contain a bigger quantity of gunpowder.

The gunshot is lit with the "bettone", a device formed of a stick with an iron ball at one end. This ball is made red-hot with the purpose of setting fire to the gunpowder, and the "mascoli" are primed by the line of gunpowder that brings the fire inside the "mascoli" through the vent.

The gunshot is followed by the volunteers of the Quarters who take care that the strip does not extinguish. They pass the "bettone" to one another for better safety.

The "mascoli" are no dangerous because the material on fire is not sent up or aside; the strong deflagration takes place inside the "mascolo" thanks to the compression of the gunpowder.

Shooting of mascoli with colored flares of Collodari Quarter

Nobody remembers any accidents or wounds or burns, to people or things.

There is no danger of accidental explosion because there are no fuses and every element is kept at a good distance from the others.

Nowadays the gunshots take place on the bed of the torrent Recco and in distant areas on well prepared grounds, levelled and covered with sand. All the stones and gravel are eliminated and the "mascoli" are set on the sand.

The biggest quantity of gunpowder is used to connect each "mascolo", and with the "bettone" the fascinating "tongue of fire" is started.

In 2001, complying with the new laws and after a long successful struggle with the Home Office, this old tradition was officially recognized and about 150 volunteers of the seven Quarters, led by the mayor and the parson, got after an exam the "patentino", that is the permission necessary to continue the great tradition of the "old Ligurian guns".




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