The Sartiglia is one of Sardinia’s most spectacular and choreographic carnival events.
The name comes from the Castilian “Sortija” and the Catalan “Sortilla” both of which originate from the Latin sorticola, ring.
The etymology of the word is the sense of the carousel as a race to the ring, a carousel closely linked to fate, luck, and pagan propitiatory rites.
The protagonist of the Sartiglia is Su Cumponidori, the knight.
The festival begins with the ritual of investiture of the Componidori which, sitting on a wooden table, from that moment can no longer touch the ground until the end of the day.
Women, “is Massaieddas“, guided by the “Massaia manna“, dress the knight with a white shirt, trousers and “cojettu” (kind of vest formerly used by the craftsmen who work clothes), covering his face with a androgynous mask held in place with a bandage, then adorn his head with a veil and a black top hat: man and woman at the same time. The Componidori becomes a sort of demigod.
The knight is the lord of the party and, after blessing the crowd with “sa Pippia de Maju” (a bunch of periwinkles and violets, a symbol of spring fertility), has the task of opening the race, putting first his sword into a star hanging by a thread.
Then he chooses the riders who will have the honor of participating in the tournament: according to tradition, the number of stars strung depends on the abundance or scarcity of the harvest.
The origins of the event are to be found in medieval equestrian competitions, already practised by the Saracens and introduced to the West by the Crusaders between 1118 and 1200. This race to the ring, probably present in Oristano already in 1350, it may have been performed for the first time on the occasion of the wedding of the Judge Mariano II: at that time the ties between the Court and the Aragonese of Arborea allowed that the children of judicature be educated in Aragon where this exercise chivalry was already widely practiced. The race, in the event source of the noble classes, immediately became the emblem of tradition and chivalric Judicial Oristano and remains today an expression of life and popular culture of Oristano.
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