The origins of the Easter Colomba: two Langobards legends

by Redazione Fine Taste

Today's is a journey back in time, a journey into that dark and mysterious era that historians call the "High Middle Age", a journey that tells the story of the Langobard origin of the Easter cake par excellence: the dove.

If the symbolic meaning of the dove as a bird is certain, a symbol of peace, salvation and resurrection according to the Christian religion, the origin of the dessert is more mysterious and uncertain.

Among the most accredited legends there are two that we would like to tell you about and which both date back to the period of the barbarian dominations, more precisely to the Lombard domination.

King Alboin and the Easter "deception".

Let's start with the first one. We are on the eve of Easter 572 when Alboin, king of the Langobards, after about three years of ferocious battles against the Roman army managed to conquer Pavia.

Given the cruelty and brutality of the Langobards barbarians, and in fear of ruthless revenge, given the siege was so long and tiring, the people of Pavia tried to gain the good graces of the new king by paying him a rich tribute: gold, precious stones, fabrics prized, delicious foods and the twelve most beautiful young girls in the city.

Not only that, a baker also offered the king a fragrant cake, freshly baked, saying:

“Lord, tomorrow is Holy Easter and I give you this dessert which has the shape of a dove which is the Christian symbol of peace, please save money and respect the city”.

The king, surprised, really liked the goodness of that dessert and swore that he would undertake to respect and enforce the Colomba as a symbol of peace and Holy Easter.

Needless to say, the king was also very interested in the twelve splendid girls, dressed for the occasion in refined clothes and perfumed with rare essences.

When King Alboin lewdly approached the first girl and asked her name, the young girl, sensing her terrible fate, promptly replied: "Colomba!" All the others also gave the same answer.

At this point, Alboin, deceived, could not break his word and had the twelve girls freed. He proved to be truly magnanimous on that occasion because in addition to freedom he also gave them a substantial dowry.

From that day, the dessert became known as the "Alboino Colomba".

San Colombano

Another ancient legend is also linked to the Langobard period, that of San Colombano.

During Lent in 612 the then Irish abbot Colombano, together with other fellow monks, stopped in Pavia after a long journey. The group was welcomed with full honors by Queen Teodolinda who served a gargantuan lunch, particularly rich in meat and game. The presence of meat, however, represented a problem for the monks, since it was Lent, a period of penance and abstinence from eating meat. How to do? How to respect one's precepts without offending the queen?

Colombano took care of it and, as a good omen for the entire court, he blessed the food before consuming it. As if by miracle, during the blessing rite the meat was transformed by magic into Colombe of bread, white as the monks' robes, thus giving the queen the opportunity to understand her mistake, but at the same time allowing all the brothers to be able to enjoy lunch and avoid embarrassing situations.

The queen was so struck by this miracle that she decided to donate the territory of Bobbio, near Piacenza, to the monks, where the Abbey of San Colombano was born and still stands today.

Not only that, starting from that day, the white dove also became the iconographic symbol of the Saint and is always depicted on his shoulder in the images that represent him.

Truth? Legend? It's difficult to establish... the origin of the famous Easter cake is certainly very curious!

Discover our assortment of handcrafted Colombe here