From nationalism to internationalism: civil religion and the festival of Saint Catherine of Siena, 1940-2003

Parsons, Gerald A. (2004). From nationalism to internationalism: civil religion and the festival of Saint Catherine of Siena, 1940-2003. Journal of Church and State, 46(4) pp. 861–885.



The article analyses the history of the annual festival of Saint Catherine of Siena from 1940 until 2003. It does so by identifying three distinct phases in the history of the festival during this time.
In the first phase (1940-1944), following the proclamation of Catherine of Siena as an official patron saint of Italy (by Pope Pius XII in June 1939), the annual festival was strikingly patriotic, nationalistic, and even militaristic in tone and ethos - thus reflecting the fact that the campaign for Catherine to be proclaimed patron saint of Italy had taken place during the Fascist era and the further fact that her first annual festivals as patron saint of Italy occurred during the Second World War.
In the second phase (1946-1989), her annual festival - although still described as a 'national' celebration - was re-constructed to emphasise Catherine's role as a messenger of peace, unity and social justice in her own day and also, therefore, her significance for post-war Italy and its place in a new European context and community.
In the third phase (1990-2003), the annual festival was again re-worked to emphasise Catherine's European significance as well as her Italian status. This culminated in the proclamation of Catherine as an official co-patron saint of Europe (by Pope John Paul II in October 1999) and in the official redesignation of her annual festival as an 'international' celebration.
In conclusion the article argues that the history of this particular festival shows, firstly, how the concept of 'civil religion' can change and develop over time, and secondly, how civil religion can move beyond narrow nationalism to include internationalist values and themes.

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