The Madonna celebrations of Aquila and Ponto Valentino and the San Giovanni of Leontica, in Valley Blenio, feature the Napoleonic Militia. The fictional army (officers, bishops, tambourine men, fusiliers, all in old costumes) attend the religious ceremonies and perform parades. Its origins lay many, many years ago, following the disastrous Russian Napoleonic campaign of 1812 in which six thousand Swiss mercenaries died.
Apparently, the many soldiers from the Blenio Valley on the battlefields, when facing the danger, made a promise (a "voto") that if they managed to return uninjured, they would give thanks to the Madonna in uniform every year. They kept their promise and, still today, the people of the valley keep this tradition alive.
Their parade is a sign of thanks to Our Virgin for the protection she gave to our ancestors during the Russian countryside until they return home.
The celebration for the "Madonna del Rosario" in Aquila usually takes place on the first Sunday of July, while the "Madonna del Carmelo" in Ponto Valentino takes place on the third Sunday of July, and the San Giovanni's celebration in Leontica the third Sunday of June.
- OPENING 24.06 - 17.07