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Banners of the Festival: Craft Spotlight

Origin of the Banners

This series of seven banners is based on those of the Assisi festival of Calendimaggio the origins of which are related to the ancient customs of many different European peoples, and especially to the Roman celebrations known as the “Fasti di Maggio”.  The medieval tradition of celebrating the arrival of Spring in early May sees groups of revellers serenading through the streets of their towns. Assisi however has another aspect to its festival, as there is a deep-seeded rivalry between the “Upper” and the “Lower” parts of the city. The feuding began in the 14th century between Nepis and the Fiumi families, who are the respective leaders of each faction.

The Assisi Festival

The city is split in two by this rivalry, the Nobilissima Parte de Sopra and the Magnifica Parte de Sotto, compete with each other for control of the Palio through parades, re-enactments and musical performances, all inspired by medieval life. Each brigata or company of singers, elect a signore and from among all the signori, a King of the festival is chosen. They then elect a “Queen of May” who is born through the streets on a cart festooned with flowers, encircled by young girls waving flowering branches called maggi. Song and music fill the streets and piazzas: madrigals, choral and solo pieces, traditional melodies and improvised ones, every sort of popular song accompanied by violin, mandolin, guitar, and harmonica. Throughout all the events the banners are used as a identification system, as well as a coat of arms for each of the districts, displaying their allegiance to one of the two factions, as well as highlighting where performers are from.

What they Represent

Sestiere is an Italian word derived from sesto, ‘sixth’ – it means ‘one-sixth part’, that is, one of the 6 quarters of Assisi, each sector of the city being divided into 3 rioni (singular, rione) quarters or districts. These sestiere are where the banners of the festival originate from, each representing their respective districts, or in the case of La Magnifica Parte de Sotto, the half of the city controlled by the faction led by the Fiumi family.

Symbolism of the Banners

Assisi of Cal Banners 1

Assisi of Cal Banners1

La Magnifica Parte de Sotto has the Fiumi family arms with its five Crown battlements.

 

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 2Assisi of Cal Banners 2Il Sestiere San Giacoma (St Jacob or James)  The somewhat curious symbolism of the pierced tower has been attributed to the small church San Giacomo de Muro Rupto (St. Jacob of the broken wall) situated some 50 yard or meters south of the San Giacomo gate for which the quarter is named.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 3Assisi of Cal Banners 3Il Sestiere San Francesco  the main symbol of the shield is not a cross but rather the letter tau, the name of the letter ‘T’ in the Greek, Hebrew, and ancient Semitic alphabets. Various interpretations can be accorded the three blue stars – they may stand for the first three followers of St. Francis.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 4Assisi of Cal Banners 4Il Sestiere San Pietro – The fisherman’s boat recalls Peter’s occupation of fisherman in Galilee.  The golden keys to the Kingdom of Heaven stand for the power of popes over matters both spiritual and temporal.  The Lorraine Cross was early-on identified with the Patriarchal Cross, and St. Peter is considered the first Patriarch of the Roman Church.

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 5Assisi of Cal Banners 5Il Sestiere Porta Perlici – Of the six porte, or gates, that allow access through the outermost defensive walls of Assisi, Porta San Perlici watches over the northeastern front. Two major roads form a vague ‘Y’ as they converge onto the gate.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 6Assisi of Cal Banners 6

Il Sestiere San Rufino – It honors the first bishop of Assisi, Rufino, who was martyred in the 3rd century by being tied with a knotted hemp rope to a millstone and drowned in the nearby river Tescio.  The green fern represents the many pine trees which grace the district.

 

 

 

 

Assisi of Cal Banners 7Assisi of Cal Banners 7 Il Sestiere Porta Moiano – The shield consists of the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major.  It is also associated with Saint Clare (Santa Chiara in Italian).

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog by Sue Green.

Interested in seeing the banners in person? Be sure to keep an eye out for them at the Abbey Medieval Festival 30th Anniversary Celebration on July 13th and 14th.

 

Medieval Bras and Undies.

Our latest guest blogger was wondering whether to start her forthcoming series with the topic of ‘bras and knickers’ or just to jump in with Medieval Sanitary Customs (of the female kind.)

Medieval Under-Clothing.

Medieval clothing is a topic which is dear to any Lady’s heart, and why not?

With such fabulous gowns and sumptuous fabrics, why not dress in her finest every chance she gets? Talks such as these, are always enthusiastically attended, but after it’s all over, there’s a crowd that hangs back to ask the really, really pertinant questions.

Everyone knows that medieval women didn’t wear underwear. No pants- everyone knows that. And bras are a pretty modern invention, aren’t they? Aren’t they?

See a pair of Reproduction Medieval Underpants.

Actually, no. Medieval women did wear underwear, and not the corsets and chastity belts that Hollywood would have us believe. Thrilling archaeological finds in Europe have discovered underwear- women’s underwear- and Abbey Festival-goers will have a chance to hear about them and see a pair of reproduction medieval underpants at a lecture in the University Pavillion on both days.

 

Guest Blogger:  Rosalie Gilbert

{Rosalie Gilbert is a re-enactor and historical clothing enthusiast whose main interest is the lives of medieval women.

Rosemalie is a life member of FOTAM; has been re-enacting for 10 years with various groups of late is associated with Knights of Lion Rampant.  She wrote our first stringently-accurate costume guidelines for our stall-holders.  Rosalie has been a long-time volunteer at many Abbey Museum events including the Abbey Medieval Festival.  We are sure Rosalie’s lectures at this year’s Tournament will be as well attended as her previous ones.

Visit her website at http://rosaliegilbert.com for more information about the lives of medieval women.}