Historical procession and ostension of the “Cintola”
Every year in Prato on the 8th of September, on the occasion of the feast of the birth of the Virgin, the Corteggio Storico takes place, an important tradition that recalls the homage paid by the Tuscan Municipalities and the Pratese Magistrates to the Sacra Cintola (the sacred belt of the Virgin Mary).
The Sacra Cintola
The Sacra Cintola, or “Cingolo” as it is called in these parts, is a relic of great importance so as to be considered one of the main symbols of the city of Prato. The relic consists of a thin strip of green goat’s wool, brocaded in gold threads, with small tassels. The Girdle arrived in Prato in 1141 thanks to the Prato merchant Michele Dagomari who donated it to the city when he returned from an expedition to the Holy Land. Since then the precious gift is kept in the Cathedral of Prato and is the object of a great veneration that culminates with the celebrations of September 8th.
The born of the Corteggio
The tradition of the Corteggio Storico dates back to the Middle Ages and has already 8 centuries of history. Since then, Prato has welcomed many faithful who reached the city both for religious celebrations and for the Fair that was held every year in those days. This commingling of the sacred and the profane gave rise to festivities that culminated with the exposition of the Girdle before the people as they still do today.
The Corteggio Storico today
Over the years the Corteggio has never lost its importance and is regularly organized every year by the Municipality of Prato. Many other Tuscan municipalities also participate in the event, sending historical groups and flag-wavers to participate in the parade.
The procession starts at the sound of the bell “La Risorta” of Palazzo Pretorio, marching along the streets of the historic center from the Palazzo Comunale to Piazza del Duomo where the exposition ceremony takes place. As per tradition, the task of displaying the sacred relic belongs to the Bishop and the Mayor of Prato. At the end of the parade, the Cintola is extracted from the altar of the Capella del Sacro Cingolo to be shown to the public by the Pulpit of the Duomo (among other things, this pulpit was created just the exposition of the belt).
To round off the festivities, a fireworks display is organized every year.
10.30am: the City Banner with the municipal representation participates in the Solemn Pontifical; the ceremony of delivering the candles of the Municipality of Prato to the Cappella della Cintola follows on the Cathedral’s sacrato.
4.30 – 6pm: spectacular performances and street theater in some squares of the historic center.
7.30pm: beginning of the Corteggio Storico. The procession leaves the Town Hall and starts along the streets of the center.
10.30pm: the procession arrives in Piazza del Duomo where the exposition of the Sacred Belt takes place. The party ends with a musical fireworks display.
For more information, see the official website of the Municipality of Prato.