The Corsa degli Scalzi in Sardinia is a tradition that can be described in a nutshell as men of all ages wearing a white habit, completely barefoot, participating together in a run in honour of San Salvatore. They are called the “army of San Salvatore” and every year they tirelessly run 7 kilometers: heat, sweat, dust are no obstacle for these people who with great devotion toward the small village of San Salvatore di Sinis. Corsa degli Scalzi in Sardinia is a very ancient rite that is held every year and goes on for two days, the first Saturday and the first Sunday of September.
Corsa degli scalzi in Sardinia: origin and history
Corsa degli scalzi is one of the most characteristic rites in Sardinia: men of all ages are involved, 900 in total, called curridoris and they wear a white habit tied at the waist with a rope. But when did this tradition start?
This event has a very long tradition: it dates back to 1619, when the Saracens invaded and sacked Cabras and the area of the Sinis’ Peninsula, imprisoning men and taking women away. The story goes that the people from Cabras, during one of the assaults by the moors, managed to keep the statue of San Salvatore safe: the story goes that they started running using some branches tied to their naked feed instead of the typical footwear of the time. This way, as they ran they lifted a lot of dust, creating the illusion in the enemies’ eyes that there was a huge army of men. The people from Cabras succeeded: invaders retreated and since then every year the event is held as a sign of devotion to the Saint that saved the village.
In reality, there is also another version to the story: some say that during one of the invasions by the Saracens, the men of San Salvatore were all busy fighting against the moors. As a result, they gave the women the statue of the saint that was held in a little church and asked them to preserve it. So, the women had to take the statue to Cabras to prevent it from being vandalized by the invaders, and they had to run barefoot. The story goes that they were successful and that this is how the Corsa degli Scalzi in Sardinia came to be.
Whatever the origin, one thing is sure: it is an ancient and thrilling event held in one of the most beautiful places in Italy.
When does the Corsa degli Scalzi in Sardinia take place?
Corsa degli Scalzi takes place over two days: the first Saturday and the first Sunday of September. It starts at 7,30 in the morning, after mass which is celebrated in the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cabras: the destination will be the church in the small town of San Salvatore, where preparations start already a week before. An interesting thing is that the houses in the village (called cumbessias or domigheddas which means small houses) are not regularly inhabited: the village becomes alive only nine days before the famous event.
First of all, there are specific rules to take part in the tradition: the devotees must be barefoot and run for 7 kilometers, carrying the statue of San Salvatore. There are 14 groups, and 5 runners for each group: seven groups run on the first day, the other seven on the second day. Fate decides who will be the lucky one to carry the saint up to San Salvatore.
At the arrival, the runners scream at the top of their lungs their typical hymn: “Evviva santu Srabadori!”, they receive a carnation to give to their dear ones and are welcomed by a great celebration. The procession continues with songs in honour of the saint the church is reached. It is a day of celebration for the whole village: the following day, on Sunday before dawn, the statue is carried back to Cabras where the religious partying ends with mass in the Church of Santa Maria whilst street celebrations continue between good food, music and cheer.
As you might have guessed, the Corsa degli Scalzi in Sardinia is a very particular tradition: if it has got you interested, why not plan a trip to Sardinia and take part in this one-of-a-kind rite?
Featured image: Sardegna Turismo