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Prato, Province of Prato, Tuscany

Prato is an ancient town in Tuscany, the capital of its province, established in 1992, and previously part of the Province of Florence. It is a populous town, presently the third largest in central Italy, after Rome and Florence. Its lively economy was based for centuries on the textile industry. The commune include a great many hamlets and frazioni in its surroundings, and the historical center is traditionally divided into the 4 medieval quarters called Giuntalodi, Inghirami, Cicognini and Datini.

Info

  • Altitude: 65 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 180,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 59100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0574
  • Patron Saint: St. Stephen, celebrated on 26 December.
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Provinces of Tuscany

Administrative Division

The comune includes the following Frazioni and Localities: Borgonuovo, Cafaggio, Canneto, Capezzana, Carteano, Casale, Castelnuovo, Cerreto, Chiesanuova, Coiano, Figline, Filettole, Fontanelle, Galcetello, Galceti, Galciana, Gonfienti, Grignano, I Ciliani, I Lecci, Il Cantiere, Il Guado, Il Pino, Il Soccorso, Iolo, La Castellina, La Conca, La Dogaia, La Macine, La Pietà, La Querce, Le Badie, Le Caserane, Le Fonti, Le Fornaci, Maliseti, Mazzone, Mezzana, Narnali, Paperino, Pizzidimonte, Reggiana, San Giorgio a Colonica, San Giusto, San Paolo, Santa Cristina a Pimonte, Santa Lucia, Santa Maria a Colonica, Sant'Andrea, Sant'Ippolito, Tavola, Tobbiana, Vergaio, Viaccia, Villa Fiorita.

History

The area was colonized by the Etruscans in the 5th century BC, then occupied by the Roman, who established a settlement called Pagus Cornius where today the city of Prato rises. In medieval times it became a Lombard center, and its earliest recorded lord was Ildebrand, whose son Alberto I was the ancestor of the most important Prato family, the Alberti or "da Prato" family, who were appointed counts of Prato by the German emperors. In 1107 the fiefdom was conquered by Countess Metilda of Canossa and in the following century Prato increased its independent status. In 1350 was defeated by Florence, and included in the Florentine Republic.

Events

  • 8 September: Ceremony for the "Ostensione della Sacra Cintola della Madonna", with flag-bearers and crossbow competition.

    According to an ancient apocryphal text of the 5th century AD, St Thomas received by Mary, immediately before her Ascension to Heaven, the holy belt, which he entrusted to a priest and preserved by his descendants, until a pilgrim to the Holy Land, a certain Michele of Prato, secretly married the daughter of a Jerusalem priest and received the Belt in gift. He took the Belt to Prato in 1141 and kept the secret, and only on his death he donated it to the parish priest of Santo Stefano.

    Miracles started to take place, and the church officially recognized the holiness of the relic, giving permission to exhibit it to the faithfuls 5 times a year, on 8 September, Christmas, Easter, 1 May and 15 August. The bronze gates closing the chapel must be opened with 2 sets of keys, one being in possession of the Municipal authorities.

What to see

  • The Sacra Cintola (Mary's Holy Belt) preserved since 1395 in a Chapel to the right of the main door of the Cathedral of Santo Stefano; the walls of the chapel are decorated with frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi describing Mary's life, and the chapel itself is closed by a Renaissance bronze gate, teh work of Maso di Bartolomeo, and on the altar is a 14-th century statue of the Virgin with Child, a masterpiece by Giovanni Pisano.

Where to stay