Today’s snowy weather has put me in the Christmas mood, so I wanted to share a new commission I was asked to do. This is a photo of my Zampognaro sculpture. He stands approximately 22″ tall. The Zampognaro is probably not someone you’ve heard of or associated with Christmas, but I think you will find his story very interesting.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December, is when Italy officially gets ready for Christmas. People in many parts of Italy will be eagerly awaiting the appearance of the zampognari or bagpipe players. The regions where you are most likely to see a piper are Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise, Puglia and Lazio. The zampognari were originally shepherds who came down from the hills at Christmas to celebrate with their families and entertain people in the villages. The zampogna, the Italian bagpipe (pronounced zam-pone-ya) is an ancient pastoral instrument played by shepherds. This tradition dates back to ancient Roman times.
This instrument is a kind of double chantered pipe. Each pipe is tuned differently according to the tradition in the area where the players come from. The reeds are traditionally made from the giant reed “canna marina” and the bags are traditionally made from goat hide or sheepskin. The pifferi are made from the wood of olive or plum trees. All zampognari still wear traditional shepherd clothing. Short breeches with criss-crossed leather leggings, sheepskin vests with a woollen cloak and peaked cap.
Legend tells us that once the shepherds gazed upon the baby Jesus, they took out their bagpipes and played. In keeping with the legend, modern day pipers stop at public Nativity scenes for a few minutes of quiet contemplation. They play traditional music, with one of the most popular songs being the Christmas hymn, Tu scendi dalle stelle (You come down from the stars), written by Saint Alphonsus Maria de ‘ Liguori, the bishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti.