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Traditional Sardinian Horsemanship Thrills Tourists At The S’ardia Sedilo In Sedilo

July 10, 2013 DESTINATION No Comments Email Email

Sardinians are renowned for their horsemanship and the horserace is the main feature of the S’Ardia which occurs every year between the 5th and 7th of July.  

It’s a thrilling race to watch with only the best riders on Sardinia participating. Thousands of locals and tourists attend the event every year to witness the thrilling spectacle of seemingly wild horses with shouting riders sprinting through this tiny sanctuary dedicated to St Constantine.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailThe festival represent the Battle of Milvian Bridge between Emperor Constantine, emperor of the eastern Roman Empire, and Emperor Maxentius, emperor of the western Roman Empire.   Constantine was said to have been given a message from God that if and his soldiers put the a sign denoting Christ on their shields they would win the battle.  And win he did.

The heroes of the festival are the first three riders who symbolize Constantine, who carries a gold flag, and his generals, one who carries a white flag and one who carries a red flag.  Each year a Constantine is selected by Sedilo’s parish priest following a strict chronological list. This leader then appoints his “generals” who carry the second and the third flags.

These three riders together designate their body guard who hold highly decorated batons which they use to fiercely guard the leaders.  All the other riders in the festival symbolize Maxentius’ army and try to overtake Constantine and his guards.

The celebrations kicks off on July 5 with a Mass at the church.

Then the morning of July 6 festivities begin in the church square with the priest blessing the riders, who afterwards parade along the village main street up to the sanctuary dressed in their traditional black trousers and crisp white shirts. The riders are led by musicians playing wind and percussion instruments  while the crowds shout and cheer elevating the excitement of the event.

On the evening of July 6, horses and riders gather outside the sanctuary grounds to hear speaches and be blessed. Once these are down the rider representing Constantine choose when to start the race. Usually he just bolts out followed immediately by his general and their body guards. The the remaining rider follow all trying to overtake the leaders.

Hundreds of riflemen shoot blank black powder cartridges during the event to keep the racing horses from smashing into the crowds which pack every corner of the venue as riders circle the church six times before the final race to the embankment where a cross has been erected.  Here the riders must circle the cross 6 times slowly receiving blessings by the priest each time before the symbolic Constantine leads the herd back to the church fountain that marks the end of the race. Here the riders and their loved ones pray and give thanks for the safety of all.

More information about the S’Ardia can be found on the official event website at http://www.santuantinu.it/.

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