Unity in Diversity: The Palio of Siena as Civil Religion
This chapter argues that the Palio may also appropriately be interpreted and understood as the principal modern and contemporary expression of Sienese civil religion. One of the most respected Sienese authorities on the Palio began an analysis of the festival and its significance with the assertion that the Palio of Siena is not a horse race but a festival, the twice-yearly rite of a city, and the historic memory of its distinctive civilization and culture. One of the defining characteristics of the Palio is the way in which it subtly combines variety and sameness, change and continuity. The Campo is also the centre of Siena in both a psychological and a topographical sense. Psychologically, it has been argued, after the fall of the independent Sienese Republic in 1555, the Campo became the natural focus for comprehensive turning-inwards that has characterized Sienese self-consciousness ever since.