Oristano, the town of Sartiglia

Oristano, an ancient town of medieval origins, stands as one of the most significant places within the huge and varied cultural heritage of Sardinia, thanks to its history and to the extraordinary archaeological and artistic traces of its worthy past. 

Around the year 1000, the Byzantine village of Aristanis became the new chief-town of the Kingdom of Arborea, receiving the fugitives of the ancient city of Tharros who escaped the ceaseless Saracen threats. Such an important institution was to be the longest-lasting among the four local kingdoms ruling Sardinia throughout the Middle Ages. Indeed, the Catalan-Aragonese conquest of the Kingdom of Sardinia, started in 1323 to mark the end of the period of Sardinian local reigns, would not succeed to include Oristano and its ancient kingdom among the conquered territories before 1420. 
In about five hundred years of history, from the 10th to the 15th century, the Kingdom of Arborea knew a thriving, top-level culture. Precious documents have confirmed how this medieval town was wealthy and refined, as its monuments of civil and religious architecture still reflect today. Fortified by walls and towers – whose vestiges are still visible at the heart of the town – at the end of the 13th century by the sovereign (‘Giudice’) Mariano II of Arborea, the ancient town stood for several decades as the symbol of the fight against the Catalan-Aragonese conquest of the Island. 
In the second half of the 14th century, the chief-town and the kingdom of Arborea reached their cultural and political apex. These were the decades when sovereigns Mariano IV and his daughter Eleonora promulgated the ‘Carta de Logu’, a modern code of laws ruling justice within the kingdom of Arborea. The same code, following the final Catalan-Aragonese conquest, would be extended to the whole Kingdom of Sardinia as the law regulating the Island throughout the period of Spanish domination. It was even used over a period of the reign of Savoy, until 1827, when Carlo Felice promulgated his Code of Civil and Criminal Laws.
In the early decades of the 15th century, with the Catalan conquest, a part of the territories of the Kingdom of Arborea would form the Marquisate of Oristano. Both title and territory would pass under the direct control of the King of Spain in 1478. In the subsequent year, Oristano was raised to the rank of Royal City, having received the privileges and regulations granted to Catalan cities. Among the prerogatives of these cities was the possibility to institute the Guilds, trade associations ruled according to the statutes of the sister companies in Barcelona. 

Oldest documents related to the Sartiglia refer to the town of Oristano during the Spanish age. At present, we do not know if the tilt at the ring was organized by the municipal authority, on the occasion of special festivities, nor do we know what was the historical moment when the Guilds started to take care of its organization. The most ancient tradition, handed down orally by the inhabitants of Oristano and, in particular, by the participants to the event – either old Guild members or elderly horsemen – has it that, since its origins, the Sartiglia has never been interrupted; that, every year, regardless of weather conditions, in war or peace, the Sartiglia has been run and ‘Su Componidori’ has been leading the ritual ceremonies of the joust. 

Since five hundred years, the Sartiglia has been marking the history of the town. Owing to its long history, the tournament has been deeply penetrating the culture and the community of Oristano. A sort of spell seems to renew the event in every edition and, at the same time, to enrich it with its own ancient past.


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