Amulet Trail: St Dominic's charm, Italy

1914.22.11PRM 1914.22.11

Estella Canziani (1887–1964) was born in Milan but lived in England. She was an artist, travel writer and folklorist. This is one of more than 1000 objects she donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum. She was especially interested in Italy's more remote villages and this particular charm comes from 'Abruzzi' (Abruzzo, in central Italy), collected before 1914.

Miss Canziani thought the textile charm depicts St. Anthony but a university professor from Perugia recently told the Museum that it in fact shows San Domenico Abate di Coculloas (the Abbot Saint Dominic of Cocullo). According to legend, in the 11th century the village fields were overrun with snakes. Saint Dominic is said to have cleared the fields of the snakes and as a lasting show of gratitude, the Festa di San Domenico Abate (or Snake Charmer's Festival) is held every year from March to May when the villagers process through Cocullo's streets, drape St Dominic's effigy in snakes and celebrate. Miss Canziani collected this, and several other objects, during the festival.

LISTEN to an extract from a letter by Estella Canziani to an acquaintance, explaining what is inside the charm and how people used it.

Artisans of Memory

Behind the scenes of an amulets project

This series of short films follows the progress and practices of those connected with the Small Blessings project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

The full series of films may be viewed here.


Amulets Competition

The competition is now closed and a winner has been announced. Find out more here.

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