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Cavalcade of the MagiBy Anthony Parente
January 6th marks the 12th day of Christmas and it is called the Epiphany. It is the day that the Three Wise Men (Three Kings); Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus. When they arrived they offered the newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each gift was symbolic and showed the importance of Jesus' birth. The gift of gold represented royalty, frankincense his divine birth and myrrh signified his mortality. This is an important day to Christians around the world.
To commemorate this special day the city of Florence, Italy hosts a pageant called the Cavalcata dei Magi (Cavalcade of the Magi). This is the biggest street procession in Florence and there are over 700 participants who dress in medieval costumes. The Three Wise Men lead the procession and they are dressed in costumes inspired by Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco titled "Procession of the Magi." The fresco was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder in 1459 and it is located in a tiny chapel within the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Documents show this event took place back in the 14th century, but it was discontinued towards the end of the 15th century. It was most likely suspended when the Medici's fell out of favor and banished from Florence as they played a big role in the procession. Thankfully the city of Florence revived the street procession in the 1990's.
The event starts at 2pm outside the Palazzo Pitti. Around 2:30pm the procession will slowly make its way through the historic streets of Florence until it reaches the piazza del Duomo. Once they reach the piazza the archbishop is greeted with the presenting of arms followed by the traditional firing of the canon. The Three Kings then place their presents before the Christ Child in a live Nativity scene. Once all the formalities and pagentry are finished mass is then celebrated inside the Duomo marking the end of the event.
If you are near Florence on the Feast of the Epiphany you will definitely want to see the Cavalcade of the Magi. You don't want to miss out on any of the events so visit the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore web site for exact times and location of the procession.
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