Waiting for the Three Magi
On just two days of the year, the Torre dell'Orologio reveals its star turn and yesterday was one of those days.
Shortly before 4pm I joined a small group of people who were waiting expectantly in the piazza, cameras at the ready, staring up at the clock tower. Suddenly the door to the left of the Virgin and Child opened and four figures trooped out, the three Magi led by a trumpeting angel. The figures (the work of Giovanni Battista Alivero, 1755) filed past the Madonna before disappearing through the door on the right. The cameras clicked away and the whole spectacle was over in under a minute.
When the clock tower was built in 1499 the Magi used to come out on the hour, every hour. However, in time the frequency was reduced or stopped altogether. Nowadays, they only appear on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) and the Feast of Ascension ('a movable feast').