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Feast of St. Michael between history and tradition

logo29 September is the feast-day of Carmignano’s patron saint and the culmination of a three-day festival that, every year, enlivens the main square and town center. There is an exciting competition among the town’s four distinct districts: the Archangel (blue), the Guild (green), the Lion (yellow) and finally the Tower (white). Each district puts on a charming and impressive show during their respective traditional parades. Another important feature is the traditional donkey race (palio), the winner of which, along with the plaudits received for the parades, determines the final winner.
Thus, September in Carmignano means a race as well as parades with dances and floats.  Created in 1931-1932, this spirited event still captivates the entire town. Attending the feast of San Michele is most definitely a good way to discover Carmignano and its traditions as well as its many local products.

The Committee
There is a committee dedicated to organizing the program for St. Michael’s feast day.
The festival’s events programs as well as photos from previous years can be found on the official website for the St. Michael’s Celebrations Committee.

FrecciaOfficial site

The Donkey Race (palio)
The donkey palio consists of a race around a course that encircles Carmignano’s village center.
Four donkeys, representing each of the districts into which the town is divided, participate in the race. The winner is the first to pierce a paper circle hanging at the finish line. Each placing is given a score, with the winner being the one that, over the course of three races, has scored the most points. Traditionally, the race is started by the mayor or, in his absence, by the organizing committee’s chairman.
One interesting fact is that, for many years now, the districts have been able to choose the jockeys, but not the mounts. The donkeys are actually procured by the Central Committee that organizes the festival. Immediately before each race, lots are drawn to assign the donkeys to each district.

  • Historical background

The presence of the capitano del popolo (people’s captain), the squires’ costumes, and an extraordinary atmosphere call to mind the Middle Ages. The cult of St. Michael, the archangel armed with a sword to eradicate demons, had existed previously in Carmignano for centuries, going back to the Lombards who settled here around 1100. Even then, many people from the surrounding areas came to Carmignano. The games and the feast were different, having been founded as a retaliatory gesture against the Pistoian rulers.
The districts were established in 1934. While the color red was carefully avoided, the Greens were allowed to include a hammer and anvil on their coat-of-arms.
The feast, as well as the palio, took place on a single day, the one dedicated to the saint, 29 September.
Unlike nowadays, the donkeys were untrained, being those used by the farmers in their fields. Consequently, the donkeys kicked and balked. Accustomed to their daily routine, they would often take the road leading down to the town’s mill, smashing into the crowd gathered along the edge of the road. They might even head towards the Renacci, amid good-humored laughter.