History of the illuminations

The history of the “parazioni” illuminations originates from very far. It is born from the cohabitation of the sacred and the profane, of Christianity and paganism. We can find all this in the patronal feasts: each country has its own patron saint who is celebrated and revered by all citizens.

While retaining some peculiarities, each country has a characteristic that unites these rituals: the illuminations. The term derives from the Latin “lumen”, which literally means “object that diffuses light”, but in a broader meaning it serves to indicate the festival of enlightenment. Wooden poles, iron wires, stairs, lamps are used to build, to “mount the party”. The “figures” incessantly repeat the same movements, they struggle, using the eye to measure, transforming the spaces.
But how is a decoration born? It starts with the ‘sketching the design on a piece of plain paper and then immediately try to enlarge it. Often the floor or the asphalt road replace the sheet in this operation. In fact, as in the past, the designers try the ‘effect of the initial design in asphalt spaces and, looking from above, they can see the’ perspective effect, to modify the defects, so as to make the idea of the most perfect initial sketch. To save time and money these artists do not make models like set designers, but they must have a great sense of perspective and a strong ability to see the finished work, with all the combinations that can be performed, only from the drawing. During these numerous tests, colored chalks are used which will then be used as a guide to whoever is in charge of arranging the multicolour light bulbs to obtain different lighting effects.

From the final sketch we move to the scale construction with reproduction in wood; usually the fir is preferred because it lends itself to works of this type given its characteristics of strength, relative lightness and ease of cutting and carving, essential quality to be able to carry out a work similar to a huge embroidery that must still preserve a its compactness and solidity. It should be noted that the entire design is divided into various pieces (elements and frames) that can be mounted easily and that, taking into account the size of the square can be removed or added by modifying the design with multiple combinations. Ability and above all experience lead to knowing how to mentally design how the entire gallery will be arranged. After having built these large wooden frames so rich in scrolls, squiggles, circles, arches, railings, pendants, pendentives and roses, we proceed to further test putting together all the elements represent the initial design on the floor to see the effect and if everything is well positioned and proportioned.
At the beginning of the ‘900 at that time the lights were to carburetion or oil as it was not yet used the’ electricity: a gust of wind was enough and the glasses hoisted on the apparatus dripped on people who passed by smearing their clothes. In those days, the transport of the material took place with the tows that were pulled by the horses, and in the evening you never returned home if the party did not end, and the places where you slept were churches, castles or even under the sound box.
Since then many years have passed; modern electrical systems, together with safety systems, have conquered today even this sector which has remained, despite everything, authentically crafted. A third phase of processing is that of painting the different frames with white paint, because white reflects light. The light bulbs are colored by the artisans themselves who put them on the side of the ring on a hole-covered frame covered with hardboard and, using a compressor, spray them with suitable paint; at this point they bake them in wood-fired ovens that reach the temperature of 50-60 degrees making them dry: with this procedure the bulbs acquire transparency and shine and therefore emit a bright light. Subsequently, these bulbs, called mignon and micromignon, whose electrical potential varies from 5 to 25 Volts, are inserted in the special lampholders already fixed on wooden frames and are then placed in the electric circuit by means of “series” and “parallel” connections: for each series of bulbs big are used 8 lamps of 15 Volt and 25 Watt, for each series of small ones are used 14 bulbs of 15 and 5 Volt. Naturally, in addition to imagination, a good deal of patience and skill is required, because the play of multicolored light bulbs must be performed with precision, skill and technique not only to achieve the desired effect, but also to avoid annoying inconveniences with electricity. like breaking glass filaments or ampoule.

Thus was born “the Royal Arch”, “the Moulin Rouge “, the” Duomo di Milano “,” the Gothic Arch “,” the Rosone “,” the Giarrettiera “,” the Conchiglia “,” il Pavone “and so on. It should be emphasized that all these denominations are invented or minted by the same craftsmen and become part of the common language. This is a sample of proposals that, individually chosen by the Organizing Committee, will lighten the entrance to the party or to the avenues facing the church where the statue of the Saint is kept, to which, theoretically, similar tributes are dedicated. From the first structures, which still remain as the “galleries” and the “cassarmonica”, new structures have been created that have taken the name of “espalier”, “pediment”, “rosone” and other pieces that can be used to fill in empty spaces, such as the “bells, the” stars “, the” candlestick “.
The Gallery (a set of arches) reproduces the naves of the churches, with addition of curtains. The Frontone reproduces facades of churches and castles. The Cassarmonica reproduces the interior of a theater, where band concerts can be performed. The piece only reproduces exclusively fantasy pieces. La Spalliera is one of the latest innovations introduced in the world of lighting and serves to cover the perimeter of large squares by creating an illusory construction in the open air.

The lights are powered by the electricity supplied by the 230 volt mains and two alternative approaches are used to connect many light bulbs: serial and parallel connection. In series connection the light bulbs are connected one after the other to form a ring circuit. According to Kirchhoff’s second law, each bulb is subjected to a voltage equal to the mains voltage divided by the number of light bulbs that make up the chain. In the parallel connection, each lamp is connected directly to the mains voltage, so two supply wires must travel the entire length of the luminaria. The advantages of this approach lie in flexibility, ie the number of lamps can be increased as desired (while maintaining the absorption of electric current within the limits tolerable by the cables) and in the fact that in the event of a lamp failure the others remain on . For these reasons, the parallel lights are used in the illuminations installed in the streets and monuments, where limiting access for maintenance is important. Multiple circuits in series or parallel can be connected in various combinations to achieve complex lighting effects. The light chains can be controlled by intermittent devices or by electronic circuits capable of producing more complex effects than simple flashing, such as crossfades, motion effects, etc.

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