Every year during the carnival week the event of the Sartiglia is organised at Oristano. This traditional event, that according to history had been organised since 1547-48 in this town, is one of the highlights of carnival in Sardinia. The origins of the event can be traced back to the sixteenth century custom of the aristocracy in Europe to organise games with riders on horseback who would show off their skills in ring stabbing. The Sartiglia (derived from the spanish word Sortilla) was first organised when Sardinia was still under spanish rule. The city council of Oristano had the guilds organise the event every year. On the two days of the Sartiglia, the Sunday and the Tuesday, each day is organised by one of the two guilds; the Gremio dei contadini (peasantsguild) and the Gremio dei falegnami (carpentersguild). Not only the ability of the horsemen is important, also the ability of the horses are considered of the utmost importance in the manifestation and therefore the relation between horseman and horse is judged as well by the public. All participants, ranging from musicians and riders to the women that participate in the rituals, wear traditional costumes and the riders also wear an androgyn mask (which has neither a feminine nor a masculine aspect).
Event: The Sartiglia
On the day of the Sartiglia the organising guild is headed by Su Componidori. This captain of the team is ritually dressed outside the perimeter of the medieval town in a magnificent, almost female, costume, and is not allowed to touch the ground during the whole day. Su Componidori is therefore hoisted directly from the chair on to the horse and leaves the building leaning all the way back on his saddle to pass beneath the doorpost. The captain and all followers enter the town in procession and head to the cathedral of Oristano where the first games will take place, meanwhile Su Componidori blesses the crowd with his staff made of violets bound tightly together (sa pippia de maju). He then opens the games, first the ring stabbing (corsa alla stella) and then the pariglia where the teams of three riders gallop through the streets.
The Sartiglia of 2010 was broadcasted live by Videolina via internet and via satellite on both days. The film posted on YouTube shows a few highlights of these days. The captain of the carpentersguild was this year an amazon. On YouTube you will also find more films dedicated to this event including one of the sixties of the previous century.
The ring stabbing contest
The riders are divided in teams of three, called pariglia. Su Componidori and his team open the contest where the riders have to gallop through the streets and point a sword to center the hole in a star whilst encouraged by the public. In 2010 only fifteen of the onehundredthirty riders managed to conquer the star, the prize being a silver star pinned on the costume of the rider by the chairman of the guild. Riders that manage to center on both days the star receive a golden star and honourable mention in the annals. Su Componidori closes this part of the games with Sa Remada, a gallop through the streets blessing the crowd with his staff of violets leaning backwards in his saddle. Then the procession proceeds to the next location near the towergate of Mariano II for the second part of the games.
The contest of the pariglia
In the second part of the contest the teams of riders, the pariglia, gallop through the streets of Oristano performing dazzling acrobacies whilst keeping their horses perfectly aligned. The acrobacies vary from forming a piramid, or a bridge, standing upright or backwards, or even upside down, all this while the horses gallop at high speed through the streets. The more spectacular the acrobacy the louder the cheers they will receive from the public.
After these games are over the procession leaves the town and su Componidori is ritually undressed.
The official website of the Sartiglia of Oristano (english). Broadcast via internet by Videolina (italian spoken).