Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Marcella van Alphen
Paolino (or Paulinus) is the patron of Lucca and, according to the legend, its first bishop sent by Saint Peter himself to evangelize the Lucchese about 2,000 years ago. Celebrated since the Middle Ages, it is in 1664, the day of his holiday, on July 12, that Paolino became the Saint patron of the city. While canons were shot at blank as part of the celebrations, some of them were loaded by mistake with actual ammunitions. The canons were firing from the San Donato bastion on the crowds. Miraculously, no one was injured! The republic attributed this miracle to San Paolino, proving to the Lucchese and their enemies that Lucca was under a strong divine protection.
A more pragmatic explanation of the miracle is that the ammunitions were stored in a humid warehouse, but this would not lead to the popular yearly celebrations that are still held every 12th of July! As we stroll the narrow and shady streets of the walled city, burgundy red flags wave in the wind at the windows. We cross path with many Lucchese proudly dressed in historical costumes. Some are part of a fanfare and their drums and trumpets resonate through the city, others are rushing to attend mass in the Saint Paolino church. Close to Saint Martin’s cathedral, a crossbow archery competition is held while at the bastion San Donato, copies of the mid-15th century canons are fired to commemorate the beloved Saint Paolino.
- To stay close to the action, the Albergo San Martino is a good bet and will put you in the footsteps of the most famous Lucchese, Giacomo Puccini.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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2 thoughts on “The Saint Paolino celebrations in Lucca”
Thank goodness for celebrations and re-enactments that help us average folks understand history better. Your photos have captured the spirit of this celebration well and helped me see the costumes that I love.
Thanks for your sweet comment. True, it feels a bit like stepping into a historical movie. Wonderful to see how inhabitants are proud to participate & share their history & culture.