THE FESTIVAL TODAY
This a traditional festival dating back to 1396, when Pope Boniface IX solemnified it, by granting the Portiuncula Indulgence (the Pardon of Assisi). The vast public commitment in the celebration was codified by the Municipality statutes. The great and particularly solemn procession saw the participation of all the town judicial authorities and sixteen craft-guilds. The main events were the horse races (equestrian tournaments, where hanging rings were to be caught with a spear by a knight riding at full gallop). An appropriate place to perform these tournaments, the Equinum, was established in the statutes in 1359, which also envisaged that any Orte residents could take part in them. Other events were taking place, such as archery and crossbow tournaments, foot races and boat races on the Tiber, named Ludi Tiberini or Le Calate, as a huge crowd went downhill to the river shores. During this eight-day festival, a great fair took place too – of goods in town and cattle beyond the river – known as Fiera dei Campanelli (Jingle Bells Fair), which was proclaimed up to Perugia and Norcia. Modern Orte residents have kept their faith in St. Giles. These days, every year Le Sette Contrade (The Seven Town Quarters), from August 31st up to the second Sunday of September, celebrate their Patron Saint. Every day, in the town quarters there is a happening: games, theatre, music and good food. The eighth day is the Palio degli Arcieri day, when in the main square – Piazza della Libertà – all the archers contend for an almost four-inch silver ring, by drawing medieval-style wooden bows. Men and women from the town quarters go and watch the Palio, wearing fourteen-century costumes and forming a pageant through the town. On August 31st, at night, some pageant representatives participate in the ceremony, where the standards are blessed in the town Cathedral, as well as, on the first Sunday of September, in the nocturnal pageant when the Podestàtakes his oath.
Translated into English by Valeria D’Ubaldo