Every year, on June 16, Pisa lights up with the Luminara of San Ranieri, a great celebration made up of one hundred thousand candles, bringing a beautiful light to the night in the city on the Arno.
It is a tradition born in the second half of the 1600s – 1688 to be precise, when the mortal remains of Rainerius Scacceri – patron saint of the Pisa municipality, who lived in the 12th century – were moved to a new urn by will of Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
June 16 is the day before the saint’s holiday, and candles are placed on the “biancheria”.
The famous “Vocabolario della lingua italiana” by Pietro Fanfani explains that “In Pisa, ‘biancheria’ are whitened wood structures that copy the outline of the factories that need to be lit up, on the evening before the day of Saint Rainerius”: in other words, they are frames placed on the façades of palaces, towers and churches, on which a myriad small candles are placed.
The old dictionary also adds an interesting anecdote: “The police held suspects during the celebration, hence the popular insult in Pisa’s area: ‘You saw the
biancheria, but you certainly will not see the luminara” – meaning ‘You are dishonest, good for nothing.”
Religious traditions mix with folk mottos, under the beautiful lights of Saint Rainerius.