Palio di San Paolino is a traditional event that takes place every year on July 12, in Piazza San Martino, in Lucca, in honor of the patron saint of the city, San Paolino.
The first information about the crossbowmen in Lucca dates back to 1169. During the war with Pisa, the government, which was concerned about the constant assaults from the neighboring city, asked the town of Genova for help, and Genova sent a certain number of crossbowmen to raise the power of the defence of Lucca.
Castruccio Castracani delli Antelminelli, Lord of Lucca from 1305 to 1330, introduced a prize to reward the strongest crossbowmen. Starting with this, the Palio will be organized regularly on the occasion of the main festivities of the city.
The document ordo pro balistari which is kept at the State Archive of Lucca, dated June 26, 1443, established the rules for the Palio. It seems to be the oldest regulation for an archery competition in Europe.
On October 10th, 1970, a group of people wishing to rediscover the ancient traditions of the city, formed the Compagnia Balestrieri Lucca, reviving the ancient tradition of crossbowing.
Today, the Palio of San Paolino is held in accordance to the rules written six centuries ago, even though, because of technical reasons, some changes were necessary.
PALIO DI SAN PAOLINO 2018 will take place on July 12, involving the crossbowmen from the city’s terzieri (the three districts of Lucca): San Paolino (red colors), San Salvatore (green colors) and San Martino (black colors).
The Palio will take place at night, starting with 9.30 pm, in Piazza San Martino, in front of the Cathedral of Lucca. The participants challenge each other using antique Italian crossbows. At the end of the competition, the judging panel, after careful examination, will reward the first four ranked crossbowmen.