If you are at Oristano or want a good reason to visit one of the most charismatic cities of Sardinia, February is the month of the horse tournament, Sa Sartiglia, that takes place the last Sunday and Tuesday of Carnival, that this year fall on 7th and 9th of February.

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The riders who take part in the challenge are divided into Guilds: the Farmers and the Carpenters. The first compete on Sunday, the second on Tuesday. One by one at full tilt they to demonstrate their riding skills by piercing a tin star that hangs by a thread over the course with a sword.

The event draws in many tourists but is also incredibly important for the locals, as the preparation for the race involves Oristano riders practising throughout the year.  Before the race there is also an impressive procession, with elegantly decorated horses and mounted horsemen clad in precious Sardinian and Spanish traditional costumes.

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The most important figure the Sartiglia is the Componidori: who has the task of leading the racers. His appointment takes place on February 2nd each year, with the feast of Candelora, where the heads of the Guild of the Farmers and the Guild of the Carpenters choose their representatives.

This year, the presidents of the Guilds of Farmers and Carpenters deliver the blessed candles to the Componidoris Francesco Castagna and Alessio Garau who will lead the next Sartiglia.

For this reason Candelora has always been one of the most intense moments of the Sartiglia.

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From early in the morning the city starts preparing to celebrate the first real act of Sartiglia beginning with Masses celebrated in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiori and in the Cathedral of Santa Maria during which candles are blessed that will then be donated to people closest to the guilds. Among the first to receive the gift of the blessed candles are the Archbishop of Oristano and the Mayor who is also President of the Foundation Sa Sartiglia.

The ancient ceremony of Sa Sartiglia gives the presidents of the Guilds (s’Oberaiu Majori of the Farmer’s Guild Amedeo Pireddu and Majorale en Cabo of the Carpenters Guild Umberto Atzei) the task of formalising the choice of their own Componidoris with the delivery to the chosen knights of the blessed candle (with red bows for the Farmers and rose and light blue to the Carpenters).

The delivery of the candles, punctuated by the music of drummers and trumpeters, is accompanied by the invocation “Santu Giuanni t’aggiudidi” by the s’Oberaiu Majori of the Farmers and “Santu Giuseppi t’assistada” by the Majorale en Cabo of the Carpenters.

The detailed program is available at this link.

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After the race of the star, it is time for the acrobatics of the horseriders known as the Corsa delle Pariglie, where three horsemen race down via Mazzini with the horses guided by the riders on the side while the central rider has his hands on the shoulders of his companions.  From here the procession becomes even more dangerous with the horsemen performing spectacular stunts. The last racers are the Componidori with his chosen riders.

To view Sa Sartiglia you have to buy a ticket and can find all the relevant information here.