In 1337, at the time of the apex of the power of Ermanno Monaldeschi, his brother Beltramo of the Order of Preachers, Bishop of Orvieto, asked the goldsmith Ugolino di Vieri to make the Reliquary of the Corporal in gold, silver and enamels where the story of the Miracle of Bolsena is described in eight scenes. In 1338 the Reliquary was first brought in procession on Corpus Domini Day. This is the first official procession we know and it moved through along the same pathways that are currently being walked.

But it was only in 1951 that, based on the documented presence of twelve armed men, acting as escort to the relic, it was decided to insert the element of the religious procession in a historical setting that reminded of the ancient civil and military glories of the medieval town.

ORVIETO Corteo storico del Corpus Domini 1One of the most significant ideas was giving importance to the anniversary of the miracle thanks to the theatrical representation with a sacred subject. As a matter of fact, from 1947 to 1951 the institute of the sacred drama of Rome, directed by Tamberlani brothers, performed religious dramas put in the square of the Duomo, calling renowned artists. The commemoration ended with a re-enactment of the highlights of the “miracle”: the celebration of Mass in the crypt of Santa Cristina in Bolsena. In this period the institution of sacred drama establishing in the town of the cliff a “Stable Seat “, with the intention of founding an acting school. In 1951, the cathedral yard was the setting of “The great theatre of the world” by Calderon de la Barca which was followed, on July 1st, by a re-enactment of the “Miracle of the Corporal.” The representation, in its execution, was preceded by a pageant, faithfully reconstructed on the basis of documents of the era in which the miracle occurred. Unfortunately, serious economic difficulties decreed, in that same year, the end of the initiative. The disappointment and regret for the cancellation of the prospects of a historical and cultural investment of the town were collected by Ms. Lea Pacini whose intervention was decisive for the beginning of the story of the pageant. One afternoon in June 1951, on the eve of the Solemnity of the Corporal, Ms. Pacini was called over the phone by the then bishop, Msgr. Francesco Pieri, who asked her to “invent” something to make more attractive the procession. Ms. Pacini got in contact with the Florentine siege of the “Maggio Musicale Fiorentino” and had borrowed some costumes to dress a small group of people to accompany the procession in historical clothing. It is in this context that a dormant and lazy Orvieto awakened.

Many citizens of Orvieto still remember with particular vividness the first steps of the pageant and the intense and throbbing waiting with which they expected its sortie to find out new costumes and new characters, a charm and a passion that is renewed every year…

The creator

Lea PaciniThe Pageant of Orvieto is one of the highest and wonderful examples of artistic craftsmanship and is the largest and most beautiful inheritance of a woman, an entrepreneur of unique artistic sensibility and unequalled tenacity: Ms. Lea Pacini, a woman who loved past and tradition.
All the people of Orvieto are her debtors: she was the creator and director of the Pageant until her death in 1992. Over the years, Lea Pacini rode out, with her stubbornness, all financial and organizational difficulties; she loved the Pageant as a “son”, and won the trust and respect of her “boys,” as she herself affectionately called all those who, though far away, came back to Orvieto every year for the Pageant. The early years were certainly not easy, as Lea Pacini stated:
“the biggest unimaginable difficulty was to recruit participants. (…) Even the peasants didn’t want to wear the costumes, they were not used to, they did not trust and thought they could play the fool”
Thanks to this woman Orvieto has a wealth, gift of the last master craftsmen. Wisdom and non-repeatability of century-old art are recognizable in the costumes, cloaks, helmets, armours, halberds, banners and flags that parade every year through the streets of the town. Each piece is based on an original design.
935273_451877268235400_368099458_n (1)It is thanks to the crusty but tender stubbornness of Ms. Pacini that the Pageant has become a not-to-miss event for Orvieto, to be proud of with “strangers”. This pride was part of her: every April, Ms. Pacini gathered the participants in the halls of the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, told facts and events of the history of the town, described events and conflicts of the fourteenth-century among the families of Orvieto, asked them to repeat some parts of speeches, gestures and ways of walking … there was the desire to create a group.
And she did it! With the Pageant, Ms. Pacini succeeded, albeit in a single morning, in making the town reviving its ancient power of Free Town, where territoriality and religion come together in a “game of history.”

“Lea Pacini” Association

The constitution of the Association for the management of the Pageant and its official recognition, occurred on February 9th, 1991, marks the birth of a reality that has for purpose the management of the Pageant of the town according to the tradition, aiming at making it growing and, above all, safeguarding it thanks to the involvement of people.