Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Maschera di Ferro", identity revealed......again.

The annual Pinerolo, "Maschera di Ferro" festival has come and gone for another year. More commonly known to many of us as "the Man in the Iron Mask"is a celebration of one of the best kept secrets in history. That secret I am referring to is from the 17th century about a mysterious prisoner who wore the clothes of a noble man, ate apart from the other prisoners, whose face was covered with an iron mask or sometimes reported as a leather mask when transported or seen in public. This person has never been firmly identified, but whom was documented by letters and eye witness accounts, leading to all sorts of speculation and naturally conspiracy theories. The most popular put forward about him being the twin brother of Louis XIV, and on which several popular movies The Man in the Iron Mask were based upon.

According to local prison records, he was delivered to the Pignerol (the French spelling back then) prison on 24 August 1669. He spent 11 years there before being transferred to several prisons along the way until he ended up at the Bastille, where he lived until his death. In all he was held around 34 years. It is amazing that there has never really been a definitive answer to whom he was or even why he was held in such a manner. There has even been speculation that it was a woman.

Our local festival is a weekend featuring a reenactment of his arrival to Pinerolo escorted by the now famous musketeers on the first Saturday evening in October every year. There are plenty of people in period costumes and much to sample and experience. This year featured a display of falconry and some incredibly beautiful owls, adding to the general festivities .

We sampled the mulled wine and some roasted chestnuts, but the line for the porchetta, was much too long and we wanted to get back over to the main piazza in the old part of the city as they had a variety of entertainment on offer. The whole of the entertainment is offered again on Sunday afternoon for those who choose not to be up too late on Saturday night.
The grand finale comes with the unveiling of this years mystery "Iron Mask" celebrity. A gasp from the audience always goes up through the crowd every year!

Photo by Dario Costantino

This year's masked man was Pippo Franco, an Italian actor and popular television comedian.

If you wan t a feel for the festival I put together a little footage from my not too high tech camera and skills. The prisoner appears about 1 1/2 minute into the clip (3 minutes total). It starts also with out much sound and then the music and drums come in with the announcement of the prisoner's arrival.
Hope you enjoy it.
Maybe you'll come and check it out for yourself next year.

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