Emidio di Ascoli (Trier, 273 – Ascoli Piceno, 5 August 303 or 309), was a Roman bishop, worshipped as a cephalophore martyr and invoked against earthquakes; he is the Patron Saint of the town of Ascoli Piceno as well as of the town of Leporano. His memory is celebrated by the Catholic Church on 5th August.
The relics of Sant’Emidio are preserved in the crypt of Ascoli Piceno’s Cathedral, while the church of Sant’Emidio Rosso is the site where the Saint was beheaded.
The veneration of Sant’Emidio is closely tied to the story of the daughter of the Roman Prefect Polimio, Santa Polisia (or Polesia), who converted to Christianity thanks to the Saint’s preaching.
Sant’Emidio is also the name of a sestiere (the ancient name of city quarters), one of the six protagonists of the jousting tournament of Quintana.
In 2008, an Association called “Sant’Emidio nel mondo” was founded and dedicated to the Saint.
Since the Middle Ages, on the 5th August (alleged date of his martyrdom) the city has celebrated Sant’Emidio with incomparable passion. Like in many other Italian Comuni (Municipalities), this Calendar Feast (a feast taking place every year on the same day), has always played a crucial role from different points of view, as it represented an expression of independence for the city as well as an important economic, recreational and religious event. The Candle Offering ceremony, the Great Free Fair and the Quintana jousting tournament were part of the complex XIII-century ceremonial that still today can be appreciated throughout the first week of August as you stroll around the bustling streets of Ascoli Piceno.
The feast has always been an occasion of social gathering and entertainment («con solemnità de jochi et de balli, alegramente», as the old city Statutes read) and a blend of Christian spirituality and knightly culture. Ecclesiastical and civic authorities invited medieval chivalry to play a role during the feast and set up games and activities to liven up the town during celebrations. This also contributed to redefine the idea of knighthood, which was often linked to violence and destruction.