Sa Sartiglia in Oristano, Sardinia

Tue, 02/10/2009 - 11:34
words by Michelle Fabio

From the last Sunday of Carnevale to the following Tuesday, the city of Oristano in Sardinia takes on a pagan, medieval, mystical feel with “Sa Sartiglia,” a three-day feast that culminates in a joust for which the entire festival is named.
A nearly constant drumbeat accompanies the centuries-old celebration as participants in traditional Sardinian and Spanish costume perform amazing stunts on horseback and drive the horses at full gallop to pierce a suspended star in the sartiglia, or ring. The more holes are made in the star, the luckier the year ahead will be.

The king of the festival is an arbiter called Su Cumponidori, who is ornately and publicly dressed before the events by young girls called “Sas Massaieddas”; the master wears a white, expressionless mask, small black top hat, silk ribbons, lace veil, puff-sleeved white shirt, and a leather jacket that ends in a short skirt on the front. Su Componidori is androgynous, representing male and female alike, and is considered a demigod sent to bring luck and protect from evil spirits.

Horsemen feature prominently in the Sartiglia from parades to events that test equestrian skills; aside from the Race to the Star, some of the most exciting parts of the festival are the dangerous, acrobatic performances on horseback, especially Su Cumponidori’s performance of “Sa Remada,” during which he rides the entire route lying on his back while the horse is at full gallop.

It is believed that the festival’s roots are in 11th century Saracen tournaments but the celebration became more theatrical and linked with Carnevale in particular during Spanish rule.

Any predictions on how many times the star will be pierced this year?

For more information see (also in English).