chapter  5
23 Pages

Cities within the City: Civil Religion and the Contrade of Siena

This chapter shows that the contrade not only contribute to the vitality of Sienese civil religion but that, in themselves, they represent a series of examples of civil religion. Just as it is common to refer to the contrade of Siena as seventeen 'cities within the city', it is appropriate to refer to 'seventeen civil religions within the civil religion of Siena'. Even if it is granted, however, that some of the rituals, actions and modes of behaviour that are part of the Palio and of the annual celebrations of the contrade might be regarded as 'profane' when viewed or interpreted from the perspective of official Catholic Christianity. If the seventeen contrade of Siena thus embrace and foster their own distinctive expressions of civil religion in relation to their patron saints, their annual patronal festivals and their participation in the popular Marian devotion that is so characteristic of the Sienese.