The Village of the Old Hag of Epiphany

7 gennaio 2015 | Commenta Discovery Marche

Traditions vary from country to country, each with its own figures that link history to magic, legends and memories that, in stories handed down from generation to generation, have a reason to exist.
The Christmas period that culminates with the Epiphany on 6th January, is surely one of the moments in the year that has the most stories and figures that can fuel the imagination of children and give the youngest members of the family memories they will treasure for a lifetime.
Who didn’t sleep with only one eye shut during the night of Christmas Eve? But the old man with the large belly and white hair is not the only person children are waiting for.
There’s also the Old Hag of Epiphany, the one who comes in the night wearing her worn-out shoes leaving treats or coal to children depending on whether they’ve been an angel or a little devil.
Here in the Marches, the Old Hag “Befana” is really at home! Where? In Urbania!
The old lady with the billowing dark skirt, long apron with pockets, shawl, handkerchief or old hat on her head, worn-out slippers and many colourful patches, is the main figure of the national festival of the Befana which is held every year at Urbania between 2nd and 6th January,
Games, entertainment, music, tastings and shows distract adults and children alike as they count down to the arrival of their favourite old lady who arrives astride a magic broomstick.
If Urbania is the place to visit in this period in order to take part in this unique event that is of value to the whole nation, throughout the rest of the year, Urbania still holds charm for visitors.
The town was known as Casteldurante until 1636 when it changed in honour of Pope Urbano VIII.
The Duomo of Urbania is of particular historical and artistic interest as it was built between the 9th and 18th centuries and was dedicated to San Cristoforo martyr. It was in fact built on the foundations of the ancient abbey of San Cristoforo del Ponte that dated back to the 8th century.
A gem that shouldn’t be missed is the “Chiesa dei Morti” (church of the dead), also called the Cappella Cola, known for the phenomenon of natural mummification. Here in 1804 18 mummified bodies were discovered, each with a different story to tell!

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