September 15 - Giglio Castello
San Mamiliano is the patron saint of Giglio Castello. The four-day celebration in his honour is one of the best-attended events on the island, with both tourists and locals filling the town.
The celebration starts on the 15th of September with the traditional Mass and with the procession of the sacred relic of the Saint's arm carried along the narrow streets of the village to the Piazza Gloriosa. In the afternoon, the traditional "palio dei somari" a bareback donkey race! is held, an event which sees the four districts of Giglio Castello il Centro, la Cisterna, la Casamatta and la Rocca competing for the final trophy.
Each day of the festival, twice a day, usually before dinner and at the end of the evening, everyone gathers in the main square where they pair up in couples for the traditional dance: the fun and fast-paced Quadriglia. Festivities continue every evening with an event such as a band concert or a singer to entertain the public, and the evening of September15th are the traditional fireworks.
A bit of history: Mamiliano, Bishop of Palermo in the 5th century, evaded persecution by escaping into a convent and living as a hermit on the isle of Montecristo. It is said that, during one night after his death, his body was taken from Montecristo and buried on Isola del Giglio, where there was probably a convent at Giglio Castello, exactly where the Rocca is today. During that same night, people from Elba and from Genoa tried to steal his body.
There was a violent fight, and as a result, the body of the Saint was dismembered and the people of Giglio kept his arm that is still venerated today. In 1600, the whole body of the Saint returned to Giglio, thanks to the Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici. Ultimately, it would be those very remains of the body of the Saint that would save the islanders from the Turkish invasion on the 18th of November 1799.