|Beato Angelico, 1440-1450, fresco, Convent San Marco|
A long time ago in Florence the New Year was not on January 1st but rather on March 25th.
When I was studying Art History this fact messed me up at times when trying to figure out the date of a painting or a fresco.
Things changed after the advent of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which established the New Year as January 1st, although it took the Florentines only about 168 years to finally accept this fact. They stopped the popular New Year celebrations taking place in March only in 1750 under direct orders of Granduke Francesco II of the Loraine dynasty.
What happened on March 25th which was so important to make it the beginning of the year? It has to do with the city’s relationship with the Virgin Mary. This day in March corresponds to the day of the Visitation of the Archangel Gabriel. This is the day he politely informed a very surprised virgin Mary about her imminent pregnancy and is considered the day she “conceived”. Jesus Christ would be born nine months later.
From the 14th century this event was celebrated by a great street fair and special liturgical masses in the church of the Santissima Annunziata. People would gather in the square for a religious party. They would come from all over the city and countryside to pay homage to the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary located inside the church. The pilgrims would eat local products (wine, bread, fruit and vegetables). They would buy candles, flowers and ex-votos* to present to the Virgin. They would listen to music and dance. It was the New Year! Yesterday there was a historic parade through town to celebrate this tradition!
- Posted by Elizabeth
*ex-votos are objects presented to the Virgin in thanks for a miracle received. Often they were made of wax, papier-mache or silver.