Due to the ever looming first Palio (2nd of July) every Saturday a few of the Contrada’s open the heavily guarded doors to their incredible museums and chapels for visitors to marvel at. There were just 4 of the 17 open (Originally, there were about 59) and only between a short time frame so we resolved to get to atleast 2 so we could see them properly on this rare occasion. First stop –
Contrada della Lupa!
Traditionally, the residents of Lupa were bakers and their contrada dates back to the 1500s. Its colors are black and white, trimmed with orange. Lupa’s symbol is a female wolf nursing twins which refers to the legend that Siena was founded by Senius, the son of Remus who, along with his twin Romulus, was raised by a wolf. Because of this, Lupa’s sister city is Rome. This contrada has no allies (quite a rare thing) and one key adversary – The Porcupines (they were once allies but their current rivalry has existed since 1934). It’s motto is “Et Urbis et Senarum signum et decus” (The arms of Rome, the honor of Siena). The Lupa are have enjoyed 34 wins, the last being obtained July 2, 1989. Following the victory of the Owl August 16, 2009, the somewhat shameful title of “grandmother” of the Palio has passed to Lupa.
Our first visit was to their Chapel, the Oratory of San Rocco which has been the property of worship of the Contrada della Lupa since 1789 . Inside, the hall divided into two bays, is completely covered with frescoes by the Sienese painters of the seventeenth century.
We then went into their museum, my friend expressing gasps of delight (as it is a lifelong ambition of hers to visit the various contrada museums) and were met with centuries worth of tradition and pride. We admired the traditional costumes of the Lupa which have transformed over the years but still continue to be worn to this very day during traditional parades and very special occassions. The patterned tights and ornate clothes of leather and velvets are a way for today’s Lupo’s to express their pride and joy at belonging to this special clan full of so much tradition and history. As their official website (all italian so excuse the rough translation) states
“moments of color and joy lie on a shelf to pull out and revive anytime, anywhere. As the men are heralded, the drum sounds, the breathless flow of the flags, a boy in tights proudly puts his arms in the air, sheds tears and sings songs. Acts very strange in the third millennium, out of place anywhere but here, twice a year, the center of the world“
their constitution, transcribed from being merely oral into print in the 1600s
and the famed “Pallium’s” the hand painted silk banners that each contrada competes to win as their prize, all painted by famed artists of the times. The Pallium’s that the contrada’s have won over the years are their pride and joy
Afterwards, we wandered by chance into what we believe to be part of the Museums Complex behind the duomo, just next to the Santa Maria della Scala. As we explored we found the traditional cart of the Palio and each contrada’s flags, aswell as a stunning old chapel
and ornate rooms
filled with beautiful paintings – i was particularly taken by the painting of the lady on the left
We then headed off for a bite to eat before trying to locate the next contrada
“Selva” amongst Siena’s winding streets