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History of the illuminations

The history of the “parazioni” lights began a long time ago. It was born from the coexistence of the sacred and the profane, of Christianity and paganism. We can find all this in the patronal feasts: each town has its own patron saint who is celebrated and venerated by all citizens.

While retaining some peculiarities, each town has a characteristic that unites these rites: the lights. The term derives from the Latin "lumen", which literally means "object that diffuses light", but in a broader sense it serves to indicate the festival of lights. Wooden poles, iron wires, stairs, lamps are used to build, to "mount the party". The "paratori" incessantly repeat the same movements, they struggle, using the eye to measure, transforming spaces.

But how is a decoration born?

We start by sketching the design on a sheet of plain paper and then immediately try to enlarge it. Often the pavement or road asphalt replaces the sheet in this operation. In fact, as in the past, the designers try the effect of the initial drawing precisely in asphalt clearings and, looking from above, they are able to see the perspective effect, to modify the defects, so as to convey 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 later serve as a guide to those responsible for arranging the multicolored bulbs to obtain different lighting effects.

From the final sketch we move on to the construction in scale with reproduction in wood; Fir is usually preferred because it lends itself to works of this type given its characteristics of robustness, relative lightness and ease of cutting and carving, an indispensable quality to be able to create a work similar to a huge embroidery that must still retain a its compactness and solidity.

It should be noted that the entire design is divided into various pieces (elements and frames) that can be easily assembled and that, taking into account the size of the square, can be removed or added by modifying the design with more combinations.

The ability and above all the experience lead to knowing how to mentally plan how the entire gallery will be arranged. After having built these large wooden frames so full of scrolls, curlicues, circles, arches, railings, pendants, plumes and roses, we move on to further testing by putting together all the elements representing the initial design on the floor to see the effect and if everything is well placed and proportionate.

At the beginning of the twentieth century At that time the lights were fueled or oiled as electricity was not yet used: a gust of wind was enough and the glasses hoisted on the apparatus dripped on the people who passed by soiling their clothes. In those days the transport of the material took place with tows that were pulled by horses, and in the evening you never went home if the party did not end, and the places where you slept were churches, castles or even under the sound box .

Many years have passed since then; modern electrical systems, together with safety systems, have now also conquered this sector which has remained, despite everything, authentically handcrafted.

A third stage of processing is that of painting the different frames with white paint, because the white reflects the light. The light bulbs are colored by the artisans themselves who insert them on the side of the ring on a perforated 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 a temperature of 50-60 degrees making them dry: with this procedure the bulbs acquire transparency and brightness, thus giving off a brilliant light.

Subsequently these bulbs, called mignon and micromignon, whose electrical potential varies from 5 to 25 Volts, are inserted in the appropriate lamp holders already fixed on wooden frames and are then placed in the electrical circuit by means of "series" and "parallel" connections: for each series of large bulbs 8 lamps of 15 Volt and 25 Watt are used, for each series of small ones 14 bulbs of 15 and 5 Volt are used.

Of course, in addition to imagination, a good dose of patience and skill is required because the game of multicolored light bulbs must be performed with precision, skill and technique not only to obtain the desired effect but also to avoid annoying problems with electricity, such as the breaking of the filaments or the glass bulb.

Thus was born "the Royal Arch", "the Moulin Rouge", the "Milan Cathedral", "the Gothic Arch", "the Rose window", "the Garter", "the Conchiglia", "the Peacock" and so on Street.

It must be emphasized that all these denominations are invented or coined by the same craftsmen and become part of the common language.

It is a sample of proposals which, chosen individually by the organizing committee, will illuminate 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", "rose window" and other pieces that can be used to fill empty spaces, such as the "bells, the" stars ", the" candlestick ".

The Gallery (a set of arches) reproduces the naves of the churches, with the addition of curtains.

The Pediment reproduces facades of churches and castles. La Cassarmonica reproduces the interior of a theater, where band concerts can be performed.

The solo piece reproduces exclusively fantasy pieces. The espalier is one of the latest innovations introduced in the world of illuminations and serves to cover the perimeter of large squares, creating an illusory construction in the open air.

The luminaires are powered with electricity provided by the 230 volt mains and two alternative approaches are used to connect many light bulbs: connecting in series and in parallel. In series connection, the 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 bulbs that make up the chain.

In parallel connection, each bulb is connected directly to the mains voltage, therefore two supply wires must run the entire length of the luminaire.

The advantages of this approach lie in the flexibility, i.e. the number of lamps can be increased at will (while keeping the electric current absorption within the limits that the cables can bear) and in the fact that in the event of a failure of one lamp the others remain on. .

For these reasons, parallel lights are used in lights installed in 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 flashing devices or by electronic circuits capable of producing more complex effects than simple flashing, such as cross-fades, motion effects, etc.

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