Feasts, Fairs and Festivals: Mirrors of Renaissance Society
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St. John The Baptist
Also called Midsummer Festival, this important holiday was also organized around the theme of renewal. Held on June 24th, the longest day of the year, the celebration represents a community demonstration of fraternity and solidarity in honor of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence. For weeks before the actual feast, there was wild mischiefmaking, similar to the carnival. A short and very readable description of this celebration appears in
The Society of Renaissance Florence
, edited by Gene Brucker (pp. 7578). By this time, students should easily recognize the kinds of activities involved—processions, plays, competitions, and fireworks. In addition, they may be able to identify symbols of this holiday, themese related to various rituals, and the functions of this holiday. Students may also note the similarity in the setting—the church and the piazza. Finally, students should note those distinctions in the ritual which identify the celebration as peculiar to Florence (the sixteen districts, the wool weavers guild, the Baptistry of St. John, towers around the Piazza della Signoria, etc.) Bellini’s “Feast of St. John The Baptist” represents the use of public squares for drama.