Calendimaggio di Assisi 8-9-10-11 Maggio 2019

Calendimaggio is a traditional festival taking place in Assisi in May. It finds its roots back in the 14th century, when the two families of Nepis and Fiumi, which represented the Guelphs and Ghibellins factions of the town, shook Assisi with their fights.
Such constant and sometimes cruel fights inspired some citizens of Assisi to celebrate the folklore of these past events.
Back then, the city was divided into the Nobilissima Parte de Sopra (“the Noble Upper Part”, representing the Nepis family) and the Magnifica Parte de Sotto (“the Magnificent Lower Part”, representing the Fiumi family). This division into two different Parts gave birth in 1954 to the Calendimaggio festival.
Calendimaggio takes place during the first week after May 1st, from Wednesday to Saturday. However, the enchanted atmosphere of the Middle Ages lingers in the streets of Assisi since the beginning of April, when the two Parts start working tirelessly for the festival, and the rolling drums announce that Calendimaggio is about to begin.
On Wednesday afternoon, the festival finally starts. Before meeting in the main town square, the two Parts participate in a ceremony called the Blessing of Banners, taking place in St Rufino’s cathedral for the Nobilissima Parte de Sopra, and in the Basilica of St Francis for the Magnifica Parte de Sotto. This intense religious ceremony, which marks the start of the festival, is deeply felt by the two Parts.
After the Blessings, the two Parts meet in Piazza del Comune square, where they exhibit all their splendour in two historical parades. The first to enter the square is the Part that lost the previous year’s Calendimaggio.
The parades are followed by another important ceremony, the Handing of the Keys, where the Maestro de Campo (the highest authority during Calendimaggio) receives the symbols of the power over the city by the mayor.
The reading of the Call for Challenge represents the first real act of dispute, with each Part attacking the rival one with irony and sarcasm.
On Wednesday night, the streets of Assisi come alive with the magic atmosphere of the so-called “scenes”, i.e. reenactments of life during the Middle Ages. On this day, it is the turn for the Part that won the challenge of Madonna Primavera (“the Lady of Spring”) the previous year to perform.
During the second day of Calendimaggio, the two Parts parade with five girls each, who will compete for the role of Madonna Primavera. The challenge consists of a series of medieval games (crossbow, tug-of-war and a typical cart race): the Part which won at least two out of three games has the right to choose Madonna Primavera, who is the girl paired with the archer that won the crossbow shooting challenge – she will be the Queen of the festival.
On the same night, it is the turn for the Part that lost the Madonna Primavera challenge the previous year to reenact the Medieval “scenes”.
On Friday night, the main square is lit up by a thrilling series of scenes performed by both Parts, where fire is the main component.
Saturday is the last day of Calendimaggio. In the afternoon, the Parts parade along the old town streets wearing historical costumes and recreating scenes from fantastic stories and events of the Middle Ages – dancing, acting and spectacular effects bring a medieval atmosphere in the town of Assisi.
On Saturday night, the main town square becomes the stage for the Choir challenge. The two choirs perform three pieces: two songs freely chosen by each Part, and a third, common song also called the “challenge song”. During the execution, Piazza del Comune is immersed in a sacral silence while everyone is listening to this magnificent performance.
After this last challenge, the three judges retire to the Town Hall to make the verdict and thus choose the winner. The festival is won by the Part that receives at least two preferences out of three in the areas of direction, history and music.
After a long night of wait, the Maestro de Campo finally announces the winner with a traditional formula.