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A tradition of happiness, adrenaline and elegance
Sa Sartiglia is a festive and impressive equestrian event whose origins go far back in time. It is believed that the Crusaders brought this event to the West between 1118 and 1200. The Sartiglia could therefore be of Saracen origin and has evolved over time into a horse race in which riders attempt to pierce a ring hovering at the height of a rider with a lance or sword.
The history of Sa Sartiglia
The presence of the Sartiglia in Oristano dates back to the mid-13th century, when the links between the Aragonese courts and Arborea led to the training of judges and heirs of the Crown in Aragon. From there the race reached Sardinia. Thus, the Sartiglia became the symbol of the magistrate and knight tradition of Oristano.
The Knight of Sartiglia must pierce a star made of metal with his lance or sword. This type of competition was widespread in Spain, where the locals competed against the Moorish knights. The name “Sartiglia” derives from the Catalan “Sortilla”, which in turn comes from the Latin “sorticula” and means both “ring” and “luck”. It is also a diminutive of “sors” (luck). The supreme leader of the race, Su Componidori, derives his name from “componedor”, the leader of the Spanish wrestlers.
Over time, the Sartiglia followed the evolution of feudal knightly structures. As an expression of the folklore of the nobility and the power groups, the Sartiglia became more and more popular also among the citizens and in the popular life. A canon created a foundation dedicated to the peasant committee for the preservation of the Sartiglia to finance the rich lunch for the knights participating in the tournament.
Even today the committee benefits from this foundation (“su Cungiau de sa Sartiglia”) to support the tournament. On Sunday the Sartiglia takes place under the protection of San Giovanni Battista, while on Tuesday the Guild of Carpenters organizes the event, which is under the protection of San Giuseppe.
Sa Sartiglia da magical festival for Carnival in Sardinia
The Sartiglia is a magical festival full of colors, symbols and metaphors, where artistry and culture come together in a fascinating blend of sacred and secular values. Every year on the last Sunday of Carnival and on Shrove Tuesday Oristano attracts the whole region of Sardinia.
The tournament is experienced with an indescribable emotional intensity that lasts throughout the year, especially in the circles that work behind the scenes: the committees, clubs, organizations, stables and families of the participating knights. The whole thing does not go unnoticed and the festive atmosphere captivates everyone, especially in the hours before the race, when the streets of the city are filled with trumpeters and drummers.
The stages of Sa Sartiglia
The race must take place whether it rains or the sun shines. The director of the Sartiglia is Su Componidori. The two committees choose from the numerous candidates the one who will take the role of the main rider, wearing a fascinating androgynous mask. The vestizione, the dressing, is a mythical ritual.
He is the Lord of the feast, both man and woman, neither female nor male. There is an ancient ritual that culminates in the vestizione of the main rider on the day of the competition. It is a ritual event, a long act that is silently witnessed.
At the end of the vestizione Su Componidori rides on his horse, dressed in a black top hat, a cape, a richly decorated shirt, a vest, a wide leather belt and, of course, the mask that frames his face with a silk ribbon. In his hand he holds “sa pippia de maju”, a bouquet of evergreens, to bless the crowd and the knights by drawing the Christian sign of the cross in the air.
The main rider is accompanied by Su Segundu and Su Terzu Cumponi as they ride to the scene where the star is hung. The main rider passes the star three times, crossing the sword with his deputy.
Su Componidori has the honor of opening the procession to the star. They are followed by his deputies and finally those who receive the sword from the main rider. Tradition says that the number of pierced stars is a prediction of the harvest. Then follows the last race to the star, this time with the “su stoccu”, a wooden stick.
Before the daredevil pariglie that take place until sunset on the nearby Via Mazzini, Su Componidori must prove himself in “sa remada”. Lying on his back, he gallops across the square and blesses the crowd.
Only then can the Sartiglia be declared finished and the ritual of the year definitively enter the history and memory of the whole city.
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