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The origins of Calendimaggio have been lost throughout time, they may be tied back to pagan practices that celebrated different joyous rituals, the return of the spring and thus the renewal of the life cycle. The spirit of the spring festival was harmonized with a hymn dedicated to love and the reawakening of the joy of life after the harsh cold days of winter. There was dancing, drinking of the past year’s wine and singing. Authentic poems were recited to honour the season of flowers.
The ancient chronicles and documents concerning the life of Saint Francis attest that in his youth he excelled in composing poems for dancing and singing.
There is no doubt that during this period the French and Provencal influence were crucial, especially in music, but it is interesting to note that these compositions were called “Songs of May” and precisely at the beginning of this month young Brigades who travelled performed in the various districts of the city.
The ancient chronicles inform us that Assisi, at the beginning of 1300’s, reached its maximum splendor. Also, during this period the city became divided in “Upper Part” – Parte de Sopra – and “Lower Part ” – Parte de Sotto – belonging respectively to the rival families Fiumi and Nepis.
During this period, none of the measures applied by the magistrates, the complaints of the clergymen, or the exile of the leaders have importance. Alternatively, availing itself to the valiant captains of other cities, one overpowers the other, but only for a short amount of time because the spirit of the citizens and the defeated families search and immediately get revenge.
The first noted clash, according to A. Fortini, dates back to 14 November 1376. The “Lower Part ” cries of “Kill! Kill!” surprised their opponents while sleeping; but this is only one link of a long chain.
During these periods of strife, however, it is always important to keep alive the habits of celebrating the spring festival which takes the name of ‘Calendimaggio’. Reliving the songs and music, serenading under girls balconies, which override the clashing of weapons in the various parts of the city, electing the King of the feast. This custom has been endured for centuries.
The participation is lively during the festival. During these nights the local residents break their usual habits of returning home once the bell is rung two hours after the Ave Maria, and they remain in the squares and the streets to listen to the minstrels.
In 1954 the festival assumes the reminiscent form that it still conserves today. The two fractions give life to competitions that recall the times of Calendimaggio. Popular participation is so intense that the city relives that atmosphere that characterized it throughout centuries.
Visit the official Calendimaggio website: www.calendimaggioassisi.com