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The Sartiglia: the ancient Carnival of Sardinia

The folklore and cultural traditions of Sardinia represent a cultural heritage not only particularly rich and varied, but also a set of unique customs and traditions in Italy. La Sartiglia, stands out in a particular way. La Sartiglia is a race held on the last Sunday and the Tuesday of Carnival in the city of Oristano. Here the event is closely linked to the carnival festivities, and is one of the most ancient and spectacular of the entire Mediterranean region. The Sartiglia owes its name to the Spanish term – Castilian Sortija, which means “ring”, and is deeply linked to the tradition of knightly tournaments. The carousel involves knights whose goal is to center, with a sword, a star suspended by a green ribbon.

sartiglia

The Sartiglia owes its name to the Spanish term – Castilian Sortija, which means “ring”, and is deeply linked to the tradition of knightly tournaments. The carousel involves knights whose goal is to center, with a sword, a star suspended by a green ribbon.

A race with ancient roots

The Sartiglia has origins that are lost in time, and date back to the medieval period, it was popular first as an event reserved to the nobility, and then – gradually – opened up to the population. The oldest document referring to this race dates back to 1547, and comes from the Historical Archive of Oristano, where a race by the name of Sortilla is mentioned as having been organized in honor of Emperor Charles V. The formalization of the Sartiglia, instead dates back to the 18th century with precise indications regarding its organization and allocation of funds necessary to guarantee it every year.

Su Componidori

sartiglia

The absolute protagonist of Sunday’s Sartiglia is Su Componidori. This “Lord of the Feast” is represented by a white mask of androgynous appearance: it is both a man and a woman. He is dressed in public, and celebrated by local girls, who wear traditional clothes for the occasion. In the past, only the nobles had the right to become Su Componidori, but then the custom was spread to the people and also to women. The first female Componidori, in fact, made her appearance in the Sartiglia of 1973. During the dressing of the Componidori, but also in the successive phases of the carousel, from the ceremony of the crossing of the swords to the undressing, Su passu de su Componidori is played, that is the Componidori Pass. The Lord of the Festival puts himself in charge of the 117 masked knights, blesses the crowd and receives the sword for the Ceremony of the crossing of the Swords. Then he gallops first, gripping his sword, trying to slip the ring, followed by all the other knights.

The Lord of the Festival puts himself in charge of the 117 masked knights, blesses the crowd and receives the sword for the Ceremony of the crossing of the Swords. Then he gallops first, gripping his sword, trying to slip the ring, followed by all the other knights. 

Sa Curreba

Music plays a very important role throughout the whole Sartiglia. In particular, sa Curreba – The Race – is the music that is played before the Dressing, and later during the descent of the knights directed towards the star, and during the acrobatic races. The rhythm of the drums, then, accompanies and emphasizes the race of the horses, as well as warning the public of the arrival of every single rider. The execution of the music is entrusted to the Groups of Tamburine and trumpet players, which belong to the traditional Oristanese music scene.

I Gremi

sartiglia

The Gremi are the corporations of the arts and trades that, starting from the period of domination of the Spanish Aragona dynasty, participated in the organization of the Sartiglia; each Gremi being linked to a patron saint. Originally the Gremi were those of Masons, Shoemakers, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Potters, Tailors and Farmers. In the nineteenth century, however, they were abolished, and only a few survived in the form of mutual-aid societies. Today the remaining Gremi are those of the Carpenters, the Farmers and that of the Masons. The Farmers constitute the Gremio that – still today – is in charge of preparing the Sunday Sartiglia, while the Carpenters take care of the Tuesday. The Majorale en Cabo, or the leader of the Carpenters, has the task of choosing Su Componidori.

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