Vesta’s celebration commences: in ancient Rome, 7 June marked the opening of the Vestalia, a festival honoring the goddess that traditionally lasted until 15 June.
Vestalia festivities began with the ceremonial opening of the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Vesta, a space to which access was typically prohibited. This sanctuary remained accessible for the duration of the festival, which allowed women to enter and leave offerings for the goddess.
The peak day of celebration was 9 June, during which processions in Vesta’s honor, led by garland-bedecked donkeys, paraded through the streets. It was also the date for which the Vestal Virgins prepared a bread made from sacred flour that was left as offering for Vesta in the temple. The finale of these festive goings-on was the purification of the temple, the detritus from which was marched out of the Roman Forum along the clivus Capitolinus to the Tiber River to be swept away.
Wenceslaus Hollar, The Greek Gods: Vesta, 17th century. Wenceslas Hollar Digital Collection, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
Sebastiano Ricci, Offerings for the Goddess Vesta, 1723. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.
Remnants of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum, circa 2nd century CE. Rome.