Notre Dame’s most sacred relic, the Crown of Thorns, escaped the devastating fire of April 15, 2019. The circulet of rushes is thornless as the thorns had been dispersed throughout the world over the centuries as gifts from the emperors of Byzantium and later, from the kings of France. There are seventy thorns claiming authenticity as venerated relics.
One – la Santa Spina (“the Holy Thorn”) – is the most precious possession of the hilltop medieval castle-village of Montone in northwestern Umbria:
At the end of the 15th- century, La Santa Spina was bestowed on Carlo Fortebraccio, count of Montone as a thanks for his military assistance to la Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia.
He donated it to the town and mandated Easter Monday as the feast day of the ostensione (“exposition”) of the Holy Thorn.
In Renaissance splendor, the townspeople parade to the Collegiate church – following the banners of their own rione – where the treasured relic will be held up at Mass and on display for veneration all day.
While in Montone’s main square awaiting the start of the procession with “the locals,” I had peeked into the city hall entryway and saw a man in regal black and gold seriously studying a parchment. I asked him if he were ready for the events. With a smile, he nodded, telling me he was the standard-bearer of the town and would be reading Fortebraccio’s proclamation of the annual exposition of the Holy Thorn.
Returning to the townspeople gathered outside, I chatted with young mothers near me with their excited children. I asked one about Montone’s Holy Thorn and its significance for her. “Above all,” she told me with passione, “the Holy Thorn is the center of our town’s traditions and our town’s history. We all feel its importance today.”
If you missed Montone’s Easter Monday Renaissance splendor, the donation to Montone of the Santa Spina by Fortebraccio is commemorated in mid-August, too, with three days of tournaments and pageantry.
Read about the celebration of the woodlands around Montone
Read here about a past visit to this festival – and see the Holy Thorn reliquary