Civil religion and the invention of tradition: the festival of Saint Ansano in Siena

Parsons, Gerald (2006). Civil religion and the invention of tradition: the festival of Saint Ansano in Siena. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 21(1) pp. 49–67.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13537900500381823

Abstract

Every December, in the Italian city of Siena, the civil and religious authorities celebrate the festival of Saint Ansano, an early Christian martyr who became one of the city's first patron saints. Although based upon long-established rituals for the liturgical feast of Saint Ansano, the contemporary celebration of this festival was 'invented' as recently as 1968 and represents a striking example of the 'invention of tradition' in a contemporary 'civil religion'. The article examines the origins of the modern and contemporary festival of Saint Ansano, tracing its history and significance for Sienese civil religion from the late 1960s until 2003 - the year in which the 1700th anniversary of Ansano's martyrdom was celebrated in Siena. The article concludes by reflecting on the significance of this festival both for the concept of 'the invention of tradition' and for the nature of 'civil religion' in contemporary Siena.

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