Mirror mirror on the wall
Who is the most famous bucket of them all?
In any other circumstance, this would have been a deep ponderous philosophical question on the lines of
- what is the meaning of life?
- what happens after death?
- who let the dogs out?
- why is Arsenal so shit in Europe?
But fear not, good people, the answer is already there.
The Aryans and Lankans fought over a woman, the Greeks and Trojans fought over a woman, the Kauravas and Pandavas fought over a woman….
The Modenese and Bolognese fought over a bucket.
Aye, you read that correctly, a war over a bucket.
The battle is now called Battle of Zappolino or the War of the Oaken Bucket.
It happened on 15 November 1325.
First the background
As we all know, Medieval Europe was a complete Horlicks of a place, full of treachery, backstabbing and political intrigues between competing city-states. Italy was no different.
From the 12th until the 16th centuries there was more or less constant warfare between the Pope and Holy Roman Empire….and their representatives in northern Italy – the Guelphs and the Ghibellines.
It all kicked off when the “Roman Emperor” Frederick Barbarossa demanded that he and all future Emperors should be recognized as the ultimate arbiter of God’s will and that they should have final say over the election to the papacy. The Pope, Alexander III claimed that as the Popes crowned the Holy Roman Emperor, the Popes were ultimately the source of the Emperors’ power and so closer to God.
North Italy became enmeshed into factional fights. The two factions came to adopt the names of the German houses that competed for the Imperial crown. The Guelphs owed their name to Welf, the family name of the Dukes of Bavaria. The Ghibellines took their name from Waiblingen castle, the seat of the Hohenstaufens in Swabia.
Now we come to the crux of the matter.
A series of raids had been exchanged between the two sides for more than a century. Earlier in 1325, the Bolognese had raided and burnt several Modenese fields.
As a sort of revenge, a squad of soldiers from Modena broke into the city of Bologna and stole a large oak bucket full of loot. The Modenese proudly exhibited this theft and refused to return said bucket.
The Bolognese were outraged!!. To appease Guelph and Bolognese honour, Bologna declare war on Modena.
They summoned a mighty army of 30,000 men-at-arms and 2,000 knights. The Pope John XXII himself led the army to take back the bucket.
Modena and the Ghibellines, by contrast, were only able to raise 5,000 men-at-arms and 2,000 knights.
The two armies met on the afternoon of November 15th at Zappolino. There was a fierce battle, but somehow, the Modenese won. The Bolognese fled back to their city, with the Modenese chasing them the entire way.
The bucket was kept by the Modenese. Even today, you can see it in the bell tower of the cathedral, the Torre della Ghirlandina.
On the Modenes side, hundreds died, thousands were injured.
As for the Bolognese, their casualties include hundreds of dead, thousands of injured, dignity and the bucket.