Birth and history of the festival
In 1155 Frederick I of Hohenstaufen met the emissaries of Adrian IV.
After a long and tiring ride
The Empire and the Papacy unite in this corner of land belonging to the city of Siena. It was 1155 A.D. when the most powerful man of the time “Barbarossa”, arrived in the turreted village of San Quirico d'Orcia to gain the crown as Emperor. Frederick I of Hohenstaufen known as Barbarossa, third Duke of Swabia, King of Germany and King of Italy was declared the legitimate sovereign of The Holy Roman Empire but he still had to obtain the consent for his coronation from the Church in Rome.
The meeting between Barbarossa and the Cardinals sent by Pope Adrian IV (otherwise known as Nicholas Breakspear – the only Englishman ever to become Pope) resulted in an agreement depending on the capture of the heretic Arnaldo da Brescia by Frederick I's troops who promptly handed him over to the Church. This was the last step towards his coronation as Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire, Frederick I of Swabia continued to Rome, where on 18th June 1155 he was crowned in St Peter's Basilica. In the same period the religious Paterine reformer accused of heresy was brought to justice and burnt, his ashes were thrown in the Tiber.
From that day, in memory of such important events the Emperor Barbarossa decided to promote San Quirico d'Orcia and its lands to the seat of an Imperial Vicariate, a political-administrative role which it maintained until the fall of the Republic of Siena. For the village of San Quirico d'Orcia, Barbarossa's visit and the events surrounding it represent the most important episode in its history. As Emperor Barbarossa said: “After a long and tiring ride I arrived in the village of San Quirico d'Orcia”.
The historical re-enactment and the competition between the ‘quartieri' have taken place since 1962.
Long live Frederick I of Swabia!
“This important moment in history should be remembered in a worthy manner”. And so it was that thanks to the wise intuition of Professor Orfeo Sorbellini the village of San Quirico d'Orcia has celebrated The Feast of Barbarossa on the third weekend in June since 1962. The event remembers the visit to the village by Frederick I of Hohenstaufen or “Barbarossa”'. The village is divided into the four original “quartieri” or quarters following the old medieval names for the different parts of the village; Borgo represented by black and white, Canneti represented by white and blue, Castello represented by red and white and Prato represented by green and white.
The event immediately became the most important in the San Quirico year provoking strong feelings amongst the inhabitants of the village. The re-enactment is both symbolic and fascinating set in the squares and streets of the old village and outside the churches. The characters include the Emperor Barbarossa, the Cardinals, the civil and religious authorities of San Quirico at the time, the nobility, the population and the troops.
The life in the village is based around the four districts throughout the year but for the Feast of Barbarossa they take part in archery (the only challenge in the first two years) and flag throwing competitions for the conquest of the “Emperor's Cup”. A feast within a feast; in the taverns of the ‘quartieri' traditional food is served, flags fly, sounds echo and a medieval atmosphere prevails.
Editorial coordination and texts: primamedia - www.agenziaimpress.it
Thanks to Clare Collins for the invaluable help.