Epiphany: the historical Cavalcade of the Magi
During the XV century the lay confraternity dedicated to the Magi organized every three years (and then every five years) a solemn cavalcade with figures in magnificent costumes, meant to evoke the arrival of the three Wise Men in Bethlehem.
This Confraternity was so successfull that the most important citizens belonged to it including the members of the Medici family: Cosimo The Elder, Piero the Gouty, Lorenzo The Magnificent.
The theme of the Kings’ arrival was incredibly appreciated during the golden century in Florence and this is witnessed with the many “Adoration of the Magi” that you can see in the city and with the famed allegorical ‘journey’ of the Wise Men that Cosimo de’Medici asked Benozzo Gozzoli to fresco in the chapel of the family mansion (Palazzo Medici Riccardi) -see our article.
The cavalcade was made out of 3 separate cortèges that came together in front of the Baptistery in order to go to the Dominican church of San Marco, the devotional church of the Medici family.
In 1494 Savonarola supressed the Confraternity of the Magi. The tradition was brought to life again in 1997 thank to the lay Opera del Duomo.
So every January 6 the Cavalcade of the Magi starts in Piazza Pitti in order to arrive to the Cathedral, passing through Piazza della Signoria.
The three Magi on horseback, who wear Renaissance costumes inspired by Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes, and the more than 500 costumed personages that take part of the cavalcade give a very good idea of the splendid years and of the richness of Florence Renaissance life.
The cavalcade starts in Piaza Pitti at 2.30 p.m