The Historic Carnival of Ivrea
The Carnival A to Z
Berretto Frigio – Phrygian cap
The Phrygian hat is a symbol of freedom, which dates back to ancient times: in Greek art of the Hellenistic period it was typically shown as being worn by Orientals. It was one of the attributes of the god Mitra, subsequently adopted by soldiers of the Persian army, and in Ancient Rome it later became the hat given by the master to freed slaves, the liberti. It thus seems likely that it was in Roman times that the Phrygian Hat (called pileus) took on symbolical value of freedom.
In the Canavese it was already found in the late 1300s in the people’s Tuchinaggio rebellion and in old prints showing peasants living in the area around Ivrea wearing a red Phrygian hat on their heads. It became an official part of Carnival in the period of Napoleonic rule, becoming more strongly identified with liberation.
It can be said that at Carnival the Phrygian hat is the real trademark of “eporediesità” (belonging to Ivrea). It has to be worn from 14.30 on the Thursday before Lent, not only to avoid being chosen as a target during the traditional orange battle – as dictated by tradition and by the General’s Orders – but above all to show one’s full participation in the event.
One thing is odd: while the Pipes and Drums and Ensigns wear a short Phrygian hat, like the typical traditional French one, the Mugnaia and the public wear a longer red woollen hat, similar to a stocking, which lies flat on the shoulder. Traditionally it is worn with a silver brooch with the symbols of the pich and pala.
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