Palio di San Paolino is a historical reenactment event dedicated to San Paolino, the patron saint of Lucca, held every year on the 12th of July, in the main square of the town, Piazza San Martino.
In 1169, during the war with Pisa, the government of Lucca, concerned about the constant assaults from the neighboring town, asked the old ally Genoa for help. To strengthen the defence of Lucca, Genoa sent a certain number of crossbowmen. In a relatively short time, the Lucca soldiers became experts in handling the crossbow.
In the 14th century, Castruccio Castracani delli Antelminelli, Lord of Lucca, introduced a prize to reward the strongest crossbowmen of the city. From that moment, the Palio of San Paolino will be held regularly on the occasion of the main festivities of the city.
The rules of the Palio were established by a document named ordo pro balistari, dated June 26, 1443, preserved today in the State Archive of Lucca. The document is the oldest regulation for an archery competition in Europe.
On October 10th, 1970, a group of people wishing to rediscover the ancient tradition of crossbowing, formed the Compagnia Balestrieri Lucca.
Today, the Palio of San Paolino is kept by the rules written six centuries ago, even though, because of technical reasons, some changes were necessary.
PALIO DI SAN PAOLINO 2019 will take place on Friday, July 12. The competition will be held between the crossbowmen from the city’s terzieri (the three districts of Lucca): San Paolino (red), San Salvatore (green) and San Martino (black).
The Palio will take place in the evening, starting with 9.30 pm, in Piazza San Martino, in front of the Cathedral of Lucca. The participants will challenge each other using antique Italian crossbows. At the end of the competition, the judges will reward the first four ranked crossbowmen.