September is festival month in Lucca. The main event is a candle light procession, the Luminara, which is held to venerate the Volto Santo or corpus of a crucifix. A 13th copy is housed in the Duomo of San Martino. The original supposedly by Nicodemus arrived in Lucca in 782 but was destroyed by overzealous pilgrims.
This ancient celebration with its thousands of candles is still a very important day for the whole province. It is this fact that makes the event so special. Old friends from outlying villages meet up.
The church paraphernalia paraded through the streets looks somehow more mysterious and magnificent outside their normal religious setting further adding to the atmosphere of celebration.
The costumes and the sound of the drums transport Lucca back to another age. The streetlights are turned off so that solely the candles that frame the windows of the elegant palazzos and the torches burning in their ornate iron holders illuminate the city.
Tuscans are very proud of their origins and Lucchesi from around the world return annually to be part of the column of local dignitaries, religious leaders, medieval archers, flag throwers and personages.
The cortège snakes through the crowed streets and piazzas from San Frediano, culminating in a Mass held either inside or just outside the cathedral. The facade is also outlined in burning candles. The music from the choir and full orchestra resonates above the city lifting the spirits and emotions of the crowd.
The finale of the evening is a firework display, which can be enjoyed from the walls. The whole city seems to vibrate and echo as the rockets soar into the sky and one can image how frightening it must have been to be under bombardment behind the locked city gates. The cries of joy from the children and the applause bring one happily back to the 21st century.