The Sartiglia

On the last Sunday and Tuesday of Carnival, Oristano hosts the Sartiglia. Its origins date back to the medieval Europe of crusades, which was the cradle of equestrian and military tournaments.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, such events flourished in the form of great shows offered to the population. As we know it nowadays, Oristano's Sartiglia may be considered as a public celebration organized with the aim to entertain and amuse its spectators.

During the 16th century, the Old Continent was particularly keen on equestrian tournaments, with a special preference for ring jousts. Sovereigns, viceroys, powerful landowners and trade corporations offered such entertainments to their guests on the occasion of king or bishop appointments, heir births, or special festivities of the liturgical calendar. Such events were meant for the noble class only, assigning the local people the mere rank of spectator. Oristano's historical equestrian Carnival falls within the broader typology of ring jousting tournaments.

Still today in Italy, several skill tournaments are present. In some cases, horsemen tempt fate to try to spear a ring; in other cases, they attempt to hit a target, represented by the image of the rival knight, called a “buratto”, featuring ancient dueling knights, such as the Quintain in Foligno or the Saracen's Joust in Arezzo.

The most ancient documents concerning the history of the Sartiglia in Oristano, kept in the Historical Archive of the town, are recorded in a registro di consiglieria of the year 1547-48, where a “Sortilla” is mentioned, organised n honour of the Emperoor Charles V probably in 1546. Later documents refer to a city authority's purchase of some wooden spears for a joust from a carpenter's shop, namely some wooden spears to be used during the tournament. This detail suggests that, in the Spanish age, the tournament was probably and initially organized by the municipal institution. Only later, was it entrusted to the Guilds – trade corporations operating in the Royal City since the 16th century – that have handed the ceremonial rites down to us.

At present, no documents are known to confirm the existence of the Sartiglia in the Middle Ages. Yet, the frequent relationships between local sovereigns and the Italian squires during the 13th and 14th centuries, the period of the Communes, as well as local Kings' long stays in medieval Spanish cities, may suggest that the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Arborea certainly had a fair knowledge of the military games and, that Oristano, like the great European cities of the time, was accustomed to seeing noblemen and knights challenging themselves in skill and horse training contests with swords and spears.

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