War of the Bucket

Monteveglio, Northern Italy.

Spring 1325.

The imposing Abbazia overlooks the valley of Samoggia and the Bolognese Apennines. The women of the abbey scurry about their business dutifully. They know their fortunes depend on servitude, no matter how distasteful.

“Our Pope has the leadership and the appendage of a maggot on heat.” Pagolo spits his malevolence at Savia. “Without me, the worm is nothing.  My genius has more than 30,000 Italian peasants marching to Zappolino in his name.”

She hears Pagolo’s footsteps in her nightmares. The Pope’s most trusted advisor always has purpose. What he lacks is humanity.

Some bear cruelty, some enjoy it. A rare few relish it.

“You have prepared everyone for the party? He leers at her. “The ‘celebrations’ will ensure victory.”

Savia fingers the tincture of poison in her pocket.

The following evening, a rugged man slips through the door of a disused building. Savia emerges from the shadows.

“Signora. Welcome to Modena. You’re safe here. I am Passerino Bonacolsi”. He proffers a strong hand. “My source tells me you have information.”

Savia holds up a roll of parchment and a bucket.

“The Pope’s most trusted advisor Cardinal Pagolo is dead. This parchment details when and where 32,000 Bolognese men arrive in Zappolino. Signor, when you attack please ensure the women at Monteveglio are safe. They deserve your kindness.”

(An extract from War of the Bucket, by Lauren Lloyd)

Last year I participated in a few ‘NYC Midnight’ challenges.

Challenging is the right word.

They work that big writer’s muscle better than anything else.

They are also a lot of fun.

You get two prompts (a location and an object) and a genre (styles you would never dream of writing in: horror; sci-fi; political satire; mystery; romance) at random.

You have a weekend to come up with a word-limited masterpiece which is read, analysed and scored (with thousands of others) by a panel of literary experts.

Oh my goodness!

Friday July 10th 2020, at 5am, by email, Lauren Lloyd gets (wait for it):




EEEEEK! 48-hours and ticking….

Argh! How do you base a suspenseful tale around a bucket and a costume party?

During a morning’s research, I discover the lesser-known story of the War of the Bucket between the two Northern Italian City-States of Modena and Bologna in 1325.

It cost thousands of lives, changed the history of Italy and plunged the peninsula into centuries-long conflict. OVER A BUCKET!

Modena was ‘Ghibelline’ (they supported the Holy Roman Emperor). Bologna was ‘Guelf’ (they supported the Pope). Modena and Bologna sit only 31 miles apart, ensuring high tension. Border skirmishes were common as each side seized territory from the other, only to lose it again.

In November 1325, a group of soldiers from Modena snuck into Bologna and stole an oak bucket used to draw water from the well. They taunted their rivals by putting it on display.

The humiliated Bolognese demanded their bucket be returned.

The Modenese refused.

War was declared.

Who said wars were pointless?!

Bologna mustered an army of 32,000 soldiers and marched them to Zappolino.

Facing them was a puny arm of only 7,000 Modenese.

The Modenese also found themselves geographically disadvantaged, being scattered on the lowland plains, whilst the Bolognese held the high grounds in the surrounding hills.

Despite being outnumbered six-to-one AND completely surrounded by the enemy, MODENA TRIUMPHED.

HOW remains a mystery.

Did Modena capitalise on their victory and march on the city?


They held a mock ‘palio’ (a sort of medieval athletics event) right outside the city gates, further sticking their fingers up to the enemy.

Then they stole a second bucket!

The Modenese have a wicked sense of humour.

They’ve never given the buckets back.

The original Bucket is held in the basement of Torre della Ghirlandia. A replica is on display in Modena Town Hall.

What a fantastic story!

Savia, the brave, medieval spy-heroine and protector of the women of Monteveglio? Pagolo, the corrupt, abusive, power-hungry Cardinal? John, the weak, maggot-like, libidinous, party-loving Pope? Well… they are all just deliciously heretical figments of Lauren Lloyd’s imagination. There’s no record of them. Awww….

How DID a geographically disadvantaged army, outnumbered six-to-one come to send their foes fleeing?

Was a woman their undoing?

Turns out costume parties ‘with a twist’ are not the best way to ensure victory in battle.

Make sure you look after your women and treat them with respect. They may just have a tincture of poison in their pockets or on their lips.

For more on the War of the Bucket:

For more on NYC Midnight challenges: http://www.nycmidnight.com/

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