The Palio of the Mannaja

the soul of Pietralunga, a centuries-old tradition

The Palio of the Mannaja is a historical re-enactment that takes place every year in Pietralunga on the second Sunday of August

The Palio of the Mannaja

The soul of Pietralunga in a festival that has centuries-old roots

The Palio is the most important historical event in the country, it recalls an event that really happened in Pietralunga on 11 September 1334, when a certain Giovanni di Lorenzo di Picardia to go on pilgrimage to Lucca passed through Pietralunga, here he was unjustly accused of killing a man and therefore condemned to death. Shortly before the execution, the unfortunate man turned confidently to the Holy Face and when the executioner tried to cut off his head with the cleaver something miraculous happened: the blade turned. There are many testimonies that support this fact, including an autograph letter from Branca de ‘Branci, mayor of Pietralunga and the same mannaja, preserved in the Cathedral of Lucca, hanging near the Chapel of the Holy Face as testimony of the miracle that occurred.

The Mannaja

Today it is possible to admire the Mannaja, in front of the Chapel of the Holy Face, in the right column, of the Cathedral of Lucca, where you can see the bas-relief of the “cleaver that does not offend an innocent”.
A little below a marble plaque commemorates the miracle, one of many, performed by the Holy Face, and says:
stop for a moment and admire the prodigy. In the year of the lord 1334 Giovanni di Lorenzo begged with prayer for help this holy cross the cleaver raised for his death keeps him alive and makes him blatant innocence: since he had been falsely accused of murder his throat promptly subjected to the iron three times it makes him soft for save it. it must be learned that none more effective than innocence to obtain wonders. “

Today, 650 years later, the cleaver is kept in the cathedral as an everlasting reminder of what happened that day.


The historian Antonio Alpini was the first to have found traces and documents, now considered lost, concerning the ancient veneration of the Mannaja miracle.

Antonio, in fact, during the drafting of his book dedicated to the history of Pietralunga (” Pietralunga from the origins to the threshold of the third millennium “) became aware of some memories relating to a miracle (the Miracle of Mannaja) that took place in our village in 1334. Following these discoveries and with the help of his friend and partner in the Pro Loco, Mario Procacci, in the early 1980s they recreated a folk festival inspired by this miracle.
But it was only in the 90s that the party took a turn, transforming it into a real cultural and historical celebration of the miracle.

Over the years, the “Palio of the Mannaja” has become the most important historical event in Pietralunga.
Thanks to a Carthusian historical work, sifting through books, essays, documents and iconographic representations attesting to the miracle, it has been deduced that the Pietralunghese one is one of the three most important attributable to the Holy Face of Lucca. In 2016, thanks to the fruitful contacts between our Diocese and that of the Tuscan city and the tenacity of the parish priest Don Francesco, it was possible to bring the Mannaja back to Pietralunga.

The Reenactment Today

On the Saturday evening before the Palio, the historical re-enactment of the miracle takes place.
But the most exciting moment is Sunday afternoon, with the traditional race of the Biroccio, a very heavy cart used throughout the Middle Ages to transport those sentenced to death. 430 kg pushed by hand by the representatives of the 5 districts: Borgo de Sopra , Borgo de Sotto , Quartiere del Monte , Quartiere delle Valcelle and Quartiere del Piscianale .
Whoever makes the route in the shortest possible time wins. A real timed race, really exciting.

But the whole week of the Palio is full of events for lovers of concerts, theater, music and folklore where it is possible, as well as get excited with the re-enactment of the Miracle and the Biroccio Race, participate in the traditional dinner of the palio, admire the spectacle of the “Sbandieratori and Tamburini” of Pietralunga, the historical procession. Furthermore, for gourmets, throughout the weekend taverns, shops and inns throughout the historic center, where it is possible to admire and buy local handicraft products, taste the local gastronomy and above all savor the welcoming Pietralunghese atmosphere.