It was also around this time that the Florentines erected the Baptistery of Saint John on the site where there once stood the temple of the previous patron, the pagan god Mars.
However the celebration of June 24th did not start until later in the 11th century. It is said that at that time, on the feast of the patron, the city streets were decorated with rich drapes hanging in the windows, and the nobles of the city were obliged to bring a richly decorated large candle in tribute to the Saint which was burned in front of the baptistery at the end of the day's celebrations.
A portion of the candles donated to Saint John then burned throughout the year inside the Baptistery. Needless to say, with the increasing power of Florence, the candles became even larger and ever more richly adorned, a display of the family that had donated it's affluence. This ritual has also survived the centuries, and still today on the morning of June 24 a procession goes from Palazzo Vecchio in order to bring candles to the Baptistery, in honor of the Patron Saint.
There are many events and traditions that are followed today in the historic center of Florence for June 24th. During the morning, there is a Holy Mass for the souls of deceased Florentines in the Baptistery, the procession of flag bearers, and the historic parade with representatives in Renaissance costumes.
In the afternoon there are matches of Calcio Storico Fiorentino (Historic Florentine Soccer) in Piazza Santa Croce.
The spirit of this ancient ritual lives on especially in the most popular event with Florentines and tourists, that is, the fireworks of the "St. John's Fireworks" (in Florence we say, "The Fohi") which takes place after 10:00 PM from Piazzale Michelangelo.
This tradition is more recent. It is said that the first fireworks were in 1826, in Piazza della Signoria. The best place to go to watch the show is on Ponte Santa Trinita. Between this bridge and Piazzale Michelangelo there is the Ponte Vecchio, which is a beautiful backdrop for the fireworks that light up the sky.
The grand finale of this year will be devoted to the flag in honor of 150 year anniversay of the Florence Capital. Palazzo Vecchio will open the merlons, and even if the ticket costs €50, the view from the top is extraordinary.
Come to Florence for the festival, savor the spirit of tradition, and witness a fireworks display with an unforgettable and breathtaking scenery.