Thursday, March 09, 2006

Clerici Vagantes and the week-end

Gaudeamus Igitur...

...juvenes dum sumus. "Let's rejoice therefore while we are still young". It's one of the anthems of the students around Europe and possibly in the States, and applies wonderfully to ELSA, the student association that has been a great part of my life at the end of the 90s and in the first years of this century and that still is part of it, even if in a much lesser way.

Case in point, this week-end I shall take part in the social programme related to the Mediterranean Regional Round of the EMC2, which includes a "fraschetta ai Castelli" tomorrow and a whole disco night on saturday. Of the two things, the most typical roman one, and the one I will probably enjoy the mostm is the "fraschetta" (which mean, litterally, little branch from a bush), meaning going to one of the many little towns on the hills surrounding Rome (the whole area being called "Castelli" because almost every town has it's own middle age little castle) and there enjoy greatly the local red wine and slices of "porchetta", which is a whole pork, filled with many spices, roasted on the fire.

I can't wait. There are indeed a few pleasures in life that can compare with sitting at a table with people coming from different places (in this case, it seems, Spain, Portugal, Malta, France, Romania, Switzerland, Netherlands and, most notably, Russia), speaking different languages, having different cultures and yet enjoying the same wine, food and sharing a common... shall we call it spirit?

It was the concept of the Clerici Vagantes of the XII century, the forerunners of the humanistic reinessance of two centuries later. As Universities started being created, they were few and far apart and students zeroed there from all Europe, often moving from one place to the other. They used to bring their own traditions, cultures, languages and yet all speaking latin and sharing a sense of being part of something greater than themselves and an unstoppable wish of learning new things, seeing new places, confronting with the others and in the meanwhile enjoying life as much and fully as possible.

Even too much sometimes, as they were known to be prone to heavy drinking, illicit "romantic" adventures and create incredible scandals in the cities where they were staying. In Oxford, at some point, the township reacted in what would had been kown as S. Scholastica day's riot, a students-hunt that left 63 students and over 30 citizens dead in the streets (untill 1835, the mayor of Oxford had to pay homage and a symbolic sum as damage compensation every year to the Dean of the University).

Translate it to modern time, have english rather than latin (sadly), and slightly less gruesome , but quite probably not less loud, events and you have ELSA (and many other international students association, i assume, but ELSA is ELSA!).

Incidentally, since we are speaking of middle age, also the term "fraschetta" has that origin. As it seems more probable, it originated from the men of a given place near Rome, famous for using "frasche" (branches) to make large huts. That originated the city called Frascati. In the meanwhile, the frasca turned from being the main construction material to a symbol and was held over the door of the places were you could go drinking wine, usually bringing your own food (which was a tradition still in use in Rome in the late 60s, were you would go to a "hostaria" sometimes with your family, more often with your friends, to drink the wine while taking your own food from home.).

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