Birds of Pray

April 12, 2019

The sweet Italian Easter bread, known as colomba, meaning dove, has been flying out of my kitchen for years. It is a traditional yeasted bread similar to panettone in texture and flavor but shaped like a dove and is considered the national Easter bread of Italy. Making them at home was a must in years past and no Easter table would be complete without one. Today, few are made at home, since companies like Motta started making them in the 1900’s and then flooded the marketplace with commercially prepared colomba and are still going strong today.

But why a dove shaped bread? The answer is subject to who you talk to. Many folk stories surround the bread but a 17thcentury Venetian document (Crapa pelada fa turtei) reveals that people actually ate pigeons or doves on Easter, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and this may be where the idea for the bread shape came from.

In Lombardia, in the north of Italy, the claim is made that king, Alboino, who conquered the city of Pavia, after months of brutal battle, was offered bread made in the shape of a dove by the townspeople as a symbol of peace.

Dove shaped bread makes perfect sense for Easter as the dove was an image of peace after the great flood and is one of the world’s greatest biblical stories of promise and redemption.

If you are lucky enough to be in Italy on Easter Sunday, be on the lookout for doves being released from churches as the faithful gather to pray in thanksgiving for their Savior.

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