Festa della Chinea: tradition and the 'exotic' in Roman festival design - Italy

Temple, Nicholas (2018) Festa della Chinea: tradition and the 'exotic' in Roman festival design - Italy. In: Architecture, festival and the city. AHRA: critical studies in architectural humanities (14). Routledge, London, pp. 49-62.


The Festa della Chinea, which roughly translates as ‘Festival of the Wandering Nag’, was a historic festival held in Rome bi-annually until the late 18th century (1788), in which the viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples was required to pay his homage to the pope. This entailed, among other things, the offering of a white horse (‘nag’) that formed part of a procession through the streets of Rome. The destination of the procession was the Basilica of St Peters, where the horse was traditionally allowed to roam within the basilica before finally being guided to the cathedra of the pontiff for a formal blessing. The peculiarity of this festival has never really been properly explained. By the early 18th century it gave rise to the most elaborate ephemeral constructions in the city, culminating in a huge firework display in the Piazza Farnese, the location of the embassy of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples and Sicily from the late 17th century. In this paper, I will examine the Festa della Chinea in the context of the tradition of festivals in Rome, tracing changes in the symbolic and ceremonial meanings of these extravagant events with specific focus on equine and water symbolism. As one of the oldest festivals in Rome, which was held annually over a period of about 600 years, the Festa della Chinea provides a rich source of material about how such events were celebrated and understood, both by the organisers and the spectators.

accepted manuscript of book chapter
FestadellaChinea_BookChap.docx - Accepted Version

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