The roots of a centuries-old tradition
One of the most anticipated events among the villages of the Tiber Valley, the Octave of Sant'Egidio is a moment deeply felt by the Ortan community and has very ancient roots. The re-enactment in fact takes us back to the time of the papacy of Boniface IX, to be precise in 1396, when the Pope granted indulgence to all those who went to Orte to pray to St. Egidio.
The event faithfully incorporates much of the ancient custom, which first included a solemn procession, with the participation of the city's magistracies and the sixteen arts guilds. During the Octave was also held the great fair of goods and livestock across the Tiber: the Fiera dei Campanelli, capable of drawing people not only from the Tiber valley, but also from much of Umbria.
Seven contrade, one community
Historically, one of the most important moments of the Octave took place along the banks of the Tiber, when citizens supported their respective contrade in races, known as "Ludi Tiberini " (or "Calate"). The races on the Tiber are still one of the highlights of the re-enactment and highlight the close bond of the local community with its river. Today, collateral sports activities also take place along the Tiber, one of them the Pedalata delle Sette Contrade, a non-competitive competition with start and finish in Piazza Libertà.
Like any self-respecting historical re-enactment, Orte citizens also compete by dusting off the old arts of archery and crossbow shooting, horse ring racing and other medieval contests. All that remains for visitors to do is to experience the ferments of the community and savor the magical atmosphere of the festive day by watching the challenges of the seven contrade: San Gregorio, Porcini, Sant'Angelo, San Giovenale, Olivola, San Biagio, and San Sebastiano.
From August 31, the date of the Blessing of the Banners, until the second Sunday in September, the event never stops. Each contrada is abuzz with performances, parades, processions, medieval music, games, workshops, exhibitions and mouth-watering table settings open to all. All leading up to the grand final event, the Palio degli Arcieri, during which the seven contrade compete for the coveted silver ring by shooting with medieval-style wooden bows.
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