For days, we had heard that the horses were coming, yet no one I spoke with knew why. Today, as with many days in Cortona, we were surprised and delighted with a colorful Medieval spectacle.
As overheard in the piazza, the nearby city of Arezzo has been highly victorious in jousting competitions this year. They came to Cortona today, dressed in their finest and with their victors high on horseback, to give thanks to their patron saint, Margherita. One of the participants told me this was a festival of adoration to their patron saint in appreciation for their success this year.
From our house, I heard the drummers and arrived just in time to see them enter the piazza from Via Roma.
A few minutes later, the horses and jousters appeared in full matching Medieval regalia.
Once the horses took their places,
the flag wavers entered and all watched as they performed.
In Italy, flag waving and throwing is a skill learned by the young and perfected over many years. It is an important part of many of the Medieval festivals and ceremonies, and one that requires years of practice.
When the performance was finished, they joined the dignitaries on the grand steps of the Municipio for the speeches of gratitude.
Following the ceremony in the piazza, the parade moved down Via Nazionale, the main and only flat street of Cortona.
Their ultimate destination was the beautiful Santa Margherita Church at the top of Cortona –
where the saint lies in glass at the foot of the altar.
In towns and cities all over Italy, ancient customs live on in the hearts, minds and practices of the people who received them from their ancestors and pass them on to future generations. It’s easy to get caught up in the pageantry and imagine days gone by. No matter how often I see one of these, it’s always quite a spectacle to behold.
Note: Click on any picture to enlarge.