The day before the Palio, a procession of contrade carries candles into the Siena cathedral (Duomo) to be offered up during a ceremony to bless the Palio banner, the prize of the race, in the name of the Virgin Mary. The procession is loud, with a marching band followed by the military rhythms of each contrada’s snare drummer as they pass. The sounds of the bands and the drummers overlap into a single cacophonous soup of sound.
The Duomo (cathedral) of Siena.
Flag bearers march through camera-wielding tourists toward the Duomo.
A tuba player of the Siena civic band marches as he plays a traditional song, and flag bearers march in the procession to the Duomo.
Children of the Bruco (Caterpillar) contrada bearing candles to the Duomo.
Children of the Drago (Dragon) contrada carry their tall white candles to the Duomo, and a banner announces the presence of the Lupa (She-Wolf) contrada.
The San Martino district is the home of the Civetta (Owl), Leocorno (Unicorn), Nicchio (Shell), Valdimontone (Ram), and Torre (Tower) contrade, and you can see their insignia on this flag.
Children of the Torre contrada ascend the steps to the Duomo during the procession.
Children of the Aquila (Eagle) contrada carry their candles up the marble steps of the Duomo.
Members of the Aquila (Eagle) and Chiocciola (Snail) contrade bring their candles into the Duomo to be blessed.
Next: The ox handlers