Since 2004, the town hall building has housed a multimedia exhibit dedicated to the various phases of the Feast of San Domenico. The exhibit illustrates key moments in the event, both those involving the religious celebration and those involving the snake ritual, including the snake catchers’ interaction with pilgrims and visitors. The most prominent images are those featuring the religious rites performed inside the church or at the church entrance (pulling the bell rope with one’s teeth, picking up handfuls of blessed earth, and draping the statue of San Domenico with snakes); the procession, during which the statue of the saint is carried through the streets of the town; the arrival of companies of pilgrims; the faces of the people who crowd the square; and the serpari, or snake catchers, displaying the snakes that they have captured.
Visitors to the museum can also learn about similar traditions in other parts of Abruzzo by consulting the museum’s voluminous documentation on the subject. On the second floor, they can view a snake exhibit that includes three display cases in which the reptiles’ natural habitat is reproduced. Members of the scientific committee are on hand to give educational talks or provide information. Visitors can also arrange to visit the wind farm, located in the mountains above the town.
The exhibit moves through a series of connected spaces that will eventually include a multimedia archive. The archive will be used to reproduce, catalogue and display every known document relating to the Feast of San Domenico and the veneration of the saint. The exhibit and the archive will serve different purposes: the exhibit, whose content may change from time to time, will focus on issues relating to the contemporary reality of the ritual; the archive will contain historical and anthropological material exploring a variety of themes (social, economic, geographical, cultural, religious, etc.).
The decision to provide visitors with both a space for easily viewing and assimilating information (the exhibit) and a space for more in-depth analysis (the archive) was based not only on practical considerations arising out of space limitations and the need to meet a variety of needs and interests, but also, and above all, on the unique nature of the asset being preserved. Like all rituals, the Feast of San Domenico is the result of a complex cultural dynamic between past and present, tradition and modernity. It is re-enacted, year after year, through codified behaviours that recall the past but that must continue to be meaningful in the present day and in the future. The celebration took shape in a society of farmers and shepherds for whom this was only one of the town’s religious feast days. Now that that society has disappeared, it has become the town’s only feast day – and, paradoxically, the event for which the town is best known. Indeed, with the demise of agrarian and pastoral life, this local religious celebration, against all expectations, has metamorphosed into an international phenomenon. Today, the outside world associates Cocullo with the Feast of San Domenico. The local population, for its part, identifies almost completely with it, and sees it as a vehicle for preserving its past and safeguarding its future.
- Area 1: May 1
- Area 2: Symbols upon symbols
- Area 3: The sacred and the profane
- Area 4: Who is the celebration intended for?
- Area 5: The sacred and the saint – San Domenico unites the two traditions
- Area 6: How the ritual unfolds – the town on the day of the celebration
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Days and hours of operation may vary depending on staff availability.
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