On our second day in Siena, we had a fabulous guided tour from an entertaining woman with glittery eyeliner and a furry jacket. The tour was so interesting and we sure began with an usual start. We went to the church that houses St. Catherine's head and right thumb. St. Catherine is responsible for bringing the pope from Avignon back to Rome. Because of this courageous act, she was canonized and is glorified. St. Catherine was from Siena and when she died Siena, Rome, and Venice wanted her body laid to rest in their cities. The pope of the time decided to split up her body and divide it amongst the three of them and Siena just happened to get assigned her head and thumb. Her head was in a glass case and covered by a mask of some sort. It was really tiny and kind of creepy...same with the thumb. You could say it was a very unique experience. My roommate said she half expected to see her standing there smiling with a thumbs up. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures because the church she is housed in is still used for regular services.
After the church we made our way back to Compo and learned about the Palio. The Palio is a horse race that is held twice a year in circular “square”. There are 17 contrades or districts in Siena and they compete in the race against each other. The contrades are very competitive with one another, especially during the race. The jockeys can’t whip the horses until the last lap but can whip each other anytime before or during the race. The contrade that wins is allowed weeks of celebrations and bragging rights. We watched a video from a previous race and saw a jockey whip another one; the jockey who suffered the whipping happened to win that year. The contrade that did the whipping suffered much embarrassment. Their mascot was the jaguar and the winners held a funeral for a cat in the streets, with a priest and grieving people adorned in black, fake crying. This prank is still talked about today.
There is a duomo in every city I have visited and none have left me disappointed. This famous church was so unbelievably breathtaking and the colors were unreal. I thought the outside was as good as it gets, but somehow the inside of the church managed to be even more beautiful. There were murals on the floors, marble statues everywhere you looked, and the oldest untouched frescoes in the world. I also managed to match the décor of the church with my striped shirt and its striped pillars. I probably took over one-hundred photos of this church alone and had to take one of myself and a pillar.