December 1 in Siena is a holy day for the city. The Sienese celebrate their patron saint, Sant’Ansano with a march by members of the 17 contrade from the Piazza del Campo to the Duomo, where they then celebrate mass. For me, this was an experience like none other. It is filled with history and tradition. Each contrada, a district in the city, is represented by a drummer and two others who carry their contrada’s banner, waving them in fluid rhythmic synchronicity. Behind them are the captains of the contrade and roaring trumpeters. It’s medieval and very moving. The march begins at the Piazza del Campo, the main piazza in the city where the Palio is held, and ends at the Duomo, the medieval cathedral built in the 13th century. A refresher: every July 2 and August 16, the Palio, the traditional horse race, is held in the Piazza. Ten contrade are represented in each race. You can look for me in the middle of all of it on July 2, 2016.
What struck me the most about this evening was the way this city’s residents hold true to so many traditions. It was simple yet elegant. Everyone in the march knew its importance. There I was, attending mass in the Duomo, with Sienese, young and old, wearing the scarf of their contrada around their shoulders. A priest from every contrada participated, each wearing a red vestment with the symbol of his contrada on the back. Try to imagine if, at the start of major league baseball season, there was one big mass for your team and all the parish priests attended and wore jerseys and caps and insignia on their vestments. And everyone in the church prayed for the pennant. (Maybe this already happens in parts of Chicago. I don’t know.)
It was a magical evening. I felt lucky to participate in such a wonderful tradition. I am enamored of you Siena!
6 thoughts on “Sant’Ansano and the march of the contrade”
Are you ever coming home? Maybe the right question is, how does feel to be home! Enjoy reading your stories. Have fun.
Come senese e membro di una contrada apprezzo molto chi ha voglia di scoprire e conoscere questa tradizione in un modo non superficiale, per quanto è possibile, e tu Jan lo stai facendo molto bene.
Credo che ogni tradizione, in ogni parte del mondo, contenga una connessione con ognuno di noi, un residuo della nostra storia umana … trovare questo filo nascosto che ci unisce a una tradizione così è un viaggio lento e lungo … come un viaggio a piedi, passo dopo passo, senza scorciatoie … con umiltà, rispetto e pazienza poi finalmente lo trovi e da quel momento è per sempre …
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Looks like you are having a blast. You seem to be at home in all of your writing’s, enjoy yourself and keep them coming. PS. what’s Mauro saying?
Maybe is too late but I must warn you, falling in love with Siena is a one way trip… And you can only fall more and more.
Welcome to the club!
Dai, Istrice! Forza!
Famoso – come ci fossi stato
Wie wenn ich dabei gewesen wäre.