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Festa de' Magi
This antique Florentine tradition was brought to life again in 1997, when during the seventh centennial anniversary of the cathedral, the Cathedral's foundation decided to reinstate the event.
This event commemorates the tradition dedicated to the Epiphany, meaning manifestation in Greek, a Christian festival observed on January 6th commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day after the birth of Christ.
This celebration refers to the episode in the Gospel, according to Mathew, about the kings who come bearing gifts to the new baby Jesus. The organizers of this event in Florence during the 15th century were members of the confraternity of Magi (Kings) who, every three years (every five from 1447) prepared a procession representing the arrival of the three Kings.
We can find reference of this celebration in a document dating back to 1417, year that the Dominion of the Republic began to subsidize the even.
Almost all the members of the Medici family as well as many nobles including Christofer Landino, Donato Acciaiuoli and Luigi Pulci, just to mention a few, were part of the confraternity.
Bearing testimony to the strong ties that the Medici's had for the Kings is the creation of the fresco, portraying the voyage of the Kings found in the chapel of the palace on Via Larga, which was done by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1459 by the wishes of Cosimo Medici.
The Epiphany, a term which over the years changed to Befania and then Befana, was the period when Carnival began, with parades of masked participants representing the allegorical voyage of the Kings, organized by Florence's "Company of the Kings".
The Company was dissolved in 1494, when the Medici family was expelled from Florence, probably because of the negative judgment of the Savonarola.
Beginning again in 1997, the "Cavalcade of the Kings" can now be celebrated every January 6th on the Epiphany. The procession leaves from Palazzo Pitti and leads towards the Piazza della Signoria to finally arrive in Piazza Duomo. The elegantly dressed Kings are preceded by the hundreds of other costumed participants of which among include representatives from the municipals and province of Florence, flag carriers and horsemen to finally arrive to the place where baby Jesus lays.
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