For four days in early May, the assisani welcome the month of floral abundance, fecundity, fertility and celebration of the rites of spring with passione.
La Magnifica Parte de Sotto (Lower Assisi) will compete wtih La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra (Upper Assisi) in a magnificent, astounding array of events including medieval banner-waving, medieval games, theater, processions, and musical events.
The flag of Assisi – bearting a cross and rearing lion – is red and blue (colors of nobility in the Middle Ages):
…and the banner of La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra is blue while that of La Magnifica Parte de Sotto is red.
As I walked the backstreets of Sopra (Upper Assisi) the day prior to the May 3rd start of events, I noted the blue Parte de Sopra banners dangling from many a window, adding flashes of dark blue highlights to the pink and white local limestone of the medieval Assisi homes:
Who will win and be awarded the Calendimaggio Palio (banner)? Three judges (and none can be from Umbria!) will decide in serious deliberation after the nocturnal gran finale concluding 4 days of festivities.
And the passionate competition begins with a blessing.
The banners of Upper Assisi are blessed in the 12th-century Cathedral of San Rufino and those of Lower Assisi in their reference point, the Basilica di San Francesco.
And here’s Fabrizio Sensi, a local “historian of Calendimaggio” prior to the blessings, backdropped by the facade of San Rufino:
The day before the blessings as I wandered the backstreets near San Rufino to see Calendimaggio preparations in action, Fabrizio had shared with me the history of Sopra‘s symbol, i Gatti Mammoni:
The “Mammoni cats” adorn many a home of Calendimaggio time…and not just on the banners.
Fabrizio had pointed out to me that Sopra symbol on a medieval palazzo of “Upper” Assisi:
The palazzo had been one of the noble buildings of the Nepis family, ruling lords of Upper Assisi – and Guelfi (supporters of the Papacy).
The noble Fiumi family of Lower Assisi had vied for power and dominance in medieval Assisi and were supporters of the Holy Roman Empire: Ghibellines,
Not far from the palazzo of the Nepis famiiy, other partaioli (those who belong to a Parte) joined Fabrizio on the day of the blessings.
Two of the smiling cross-bowers flanked me for a photo, the badge of Sopra’s Gatti Mammoni not only on their shirts but also on their crossbows. All three of us were dressed in blue, logicamente:
Those Gatti Mammoni reign on my treasured Calendimaggio hat, too:
Nearby, trumpeters of the Nobilissima Parte de Sopra tuned up for their triumphal entry into the cathedral:
Steps away, a lovely dama (noble woman) in the blue of Sopra awaited serenely the moment of entry into the cathedral for the blessing of the banners.
Woven garlands of branches and flowers were behind her – and would be carried into the main square later that afternoon for the triumphal opening ceremony of Calendimaggio.
The blessings ceremony opened with other stately nobili – many in elegant blue – heading towards the altar, some carrying images of the beloved Gatti Mammoni:
Children in medieval dress joined the adults, for la grande passione for Calendimaggio is born at an early age in Assisi:
Proud youth followed bearing banners of the three terzieri (districts) of la Nobilissima Parte de Sopra:
The youth bearing banners were followed by five graceful young damigelle (damsels) in spring pastels, flowers braided into their hair:
Five young damsels would also be presented by the opposing faction, La Magnifica Parte de Sotto – and one of the ten young women would reign over the festival as Madonna Primavera (Lady Spring).
The proclamation of Madonna Primavera would be the following day and cross-bowers would have an integral role. They joined the damsels heading down the main aisle towards the altar:
At the altlar, the banner of La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra bearing the two Gatti Mammoni was flanked by the flags of the three terzieri of Sopra:
Sopra cross-bowers stood proudly near the banners for the blessings ceremony…
The drummers of Sopra were there, too and received awards for their passionate participation and addition to the festivities:
Musicians added medieval music to the blessings ceremony:
(,,,and I had heard the musicians practicing when wandering Assisi the day before. Enjoy their music.)
The winning faction of the Calendimaggio will take home the Palio (the banner – the flag of Assisi) and as Sopra had won last year, the Palio was carried solemnly into the cathedral by the Priore di Sopra flanked by two nobili.
That afternoon, the Palio would be triumphantly carried into the main square of Assisi, Piazza del Comune, in the opening ceremony of Calendimaggio and returned to the town.
Which Parte would win the Palio in 2023?
Four days of passionate contests, theatrical presentations, musical performances, and medieval splendor would decide.
Click here to see my video on La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra banner-blessings ceremony of Calendimaggio
Read about another blessings ceremony.
Click here to listen to the medieval music of Sopra.
Feel the passione of the drummers of La Nobilissima Parte de Sopra here