Sa Sartiglia is one of the most ancient and spectacular horse races in the Mediterranean area. It is held every year on the last Sunday of Lent and on Shrove Tuesday. Sa Sartiglia has its roots in the Spanish domination period and has been celebrated every year since 1478. As many as a hundred horse riders, championed by Su Componidori, career at full gallop to try and pierce a star-shaped token, simply known as “the star”, with their sword.
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Sa Sartiglia begins with the ceremony of the vestizione (the dressing) of Su Componidori, who is the leader of the race. Su Componidori is dressed in front of a restricted audience by the Massaieddas, young girls who sew together the various pieces of the outfit of the rider. Once the clothes are all sewn together, mask, veil, and black top hat complete the outfit. Once the mask is placed on su Componidori’s face, the rider is invested with the role of leading the race and becomes a genderless deity.
The Star Joust is the central part of the event. As many as a hundred horsemen will take turns in trying to pierce with their sword a steel star-shaped token that is hanging between two posts halfway down the track. Su Componidori, being the leader of the race and of the whole festival, is the first one to ride and try to pierce “the star”. Su Componidori also has the right and duty to pick the riders that will have the honour of trying to pierce the “star”. Once the riders have tried their luck, su Componidori gives their blessing to the city. They lay on the back of their horse and draw big crosses in the air with a flower bouquet, while the horse gallops at high speed. Such a dangerous stunt, known as sa Remada, marks the end of this part of the event.
After the corsa alla stella, the riders get together in groups of three known as pariglie and perform reckless acrobatic stunts while the horses run at high speed. When the pariglie are over, su Componidori gives their blessing to the crowd.
The svestizione, that is when the traditional clothes are removed, marks the end of the event. First, the top hat and veil are removed, then, to the sound of drums, the mask is taken off. This is a moment of great significance: su Componidori is no longer a deity, but a human again. From this moment on, the riders and all people present can greet and congratulate him/her.
Special Sartiglia 2022 n° 1/2022 – Editorial project of the Oristano Foundation.
Scroll through our photo and video gallery to see the most significant images of the Sartiglia.