Lately, it seems that everyone I know is going to Orvieto, a small town that sits high on a hill in Umbria. Orvieto is one of those towns that lingers in your memory long after you have left it. The tiny streets that house loads of ceramic shops wind their way up the hill to the gorgeous Duomo and its piazza. The facade of the Duomo is truly magnificent. It is adorned with brilliant mosaics as well as three giant bronze doors. The inside of the church is frescoed by many of the masters of Italian design. But, one may pose the question of why such a small town has such a large and very impressive Duomo? The answer lies in the fact that a very important Catholic feast day was born very close to the site of this cathedral. The feast day is Corpus Domini, and it is one of the prominent feast days in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. A miracle occured in a small town near Orvieto called Bolsena. It was 1263 and a travelling priest who had been questioning his faith was saying Mass when the host began to bleed. Pope Urban IV, who was staying in Orvieto at the time, declared this to be a miracle and decreed the Feast of Corpus Domini. He needed a place to house this very important Church relic and therefore ordered a large cathedral to be built in Orvieto.
Every year, during the Feast of Corpus Domini, which happens to be around the end of June, a large celebration occurs in Orvieto. Thousands of people descend on the piazza, many dressed in period costumes. There are flags, and trumpets, and armor….all the traditions of Renaissance Italy. For the people of Orvieto, this is their special day. Many of those that have moved away return to their hometown for this day to relive the tradition of their past. It is a beautiful and traditional feast, and one I hope to myself witness one day.