Monday, October 03, 2011

Pinerolo's "Man in the Iron Mask" festival

Iron masked Prisoner and Musketeer guards
Another year, another mysterious masked man is brought to Pinerolo, escorted by D'Artagnan and his fellow musketeers from the island of St Marguerite( in the bay of Cannes) in our annual reenactment of this documented but unsolved mystery. The legend, brought to light by the French writer Voltaire, is of a richly robed man in an iron mask that was held in several prisons before ending up in the Bastille, where he ultimately died and was buried in 1703.
This much loved mystery not only lives on and continues to intrigue, it has it's own enactment and celebration in Pinerolo. This year festival marks Pinerolo's 13th edition of the arrival of Pinerolo's most infamous and also documented masked prisoner. He arrived in Pinerolo prison August 24, 1669 where  he was kept for 11 years. There are many theories and versions of the story and in actuality it is difficult to know if any of them are one mans story or the synthesis of several with a strong sprinkling of legend and embellishment along the way. There was, however, a man in a mask who arrived in Pinerolo and the story lives on every year the first weekend in October with pageantry, historical costumes, music, games, and lots of speculation as to the identity of the man portraying the man in the iron mask this year. 
The Iron masked prisoner and his confessor

The commemoration opens on Saturday night with the arrival of the prisoner with this year's edition featuring several other famous Pinerolo prisoners from this era to add to the spectacle and speculation. I thought it added another nice element of drama as the prisoners made a dash for freedom before being put behind bars. Every year there is a bit of tweaking this event with an effort to accurately portray the time period in costume and village life. 
Other infamous Pinerolo prisoners
On Sunday the town comes alive with another round of dancing, flag waving, colorful costumed lords and ladies promenading around town, with various types of entertainment and wares to sample or purchase. Then the parading of the prisoners through the streets before unmasking this years celebrity to the crowd of 5,000 or so onlookers. It's a festive and interesting town performance, especially if the weather is cooperative as it was this year, that you should make plans to attend one day.  There are some excellent videos of the festivities on the Festivals website here. We have a video posted here.
I'll leave you with some highlights of the festival.












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