Sartiglia: the race to the star

 Sartiglia of Oristano

THE EVENT 3|5 march 2019

Every year the last Sunday and Tuesday of carnival is held the Sartiglia race. An ancient origin for this event born during the period of Spanish domination. Since 1478 it is celebrated every year without interruption, now will be the 554 edition!

500 years of history for this race guided by the temerity of the knights led by the almost sacred figure of Su Componidori


The route takes place between the historic streets of the city and continues towards  Via della Cattedrale where the Race to the Star takes place. Su Componidori opens the race with a wild descent trying to pierce the star with the sword. All the other knights descend behind him.

After that Su Componidori heads for Piazza Manno where he performs the Remada, the spectacular acrobatics. This is a test of great skill because the rider is galloping backwards on the horse




After the race, the procession moves to Via Mazzini where they perform the Pariglie (groups of 3 knights) who engage in daring acrobatics. Once the parades are over, Su Componidori closes the race and followed by his helpers, retraces the path on the horse blessing the crowd with Sa Pippia de Maiu (a symbolic object made of a bunch of violets)

In conclusion, the procession heads to the headquarters of the Gremio where the Svestizione will take place. The riders then arrive in Piazza Eleonora d’Arborea.



Su Componidori

It is the central figure of the event. It is the highest authority that will have the task of commanding the race. He is chosen and appointed every year on the 2nd of February during the Candelora Festival. One of the most significant aspects concerns the dressing of the rider. Aided by the massaieddas (the young women in traditional Sardinian dress) and the Massaia manna (the most experienced in this practice). He’s the one who starts the race in the first attempt to stab the star. His important role ends with the Svestizione (the undress). He removed the sacred clothes and by taking off the mask ends the figure of the heroic knight de Su Componidori


The Knights

The knights undoubtedly represent one of the main components of the Sartiglia. The protagonists on horseback are a total of 120. Lately the participation is reserved almost exclusively to local riders from Oristano because the city has grown in the equestrian passion and many young want to take part to the event. The preparation of the knights at the Sartiglia last for a whole year. A great effort is required in the athletic preparation phase and in the harmony with the other components of the pair. Who among the knights has the good fortune to be nominated from Su Componidori to try his luck in catching the star, he will be blessed with an extraordinary experience and emotion


The Gremi

The Gremi are religious corporations of members who exercised the same trade among which farmers, carpenters, iron workers, tailors, shoemakers and carters. The association was governed by statutes of direct derivation from Barcelona. The Gremi are still the organizers of the event to which the most important decisions lie, including the proclamation of Su Componidori. The Gremio dei Contadini leads the Sartiglia on Sunday, while the Gremio dei Falegnami will lead the race on Tuesday

Drummers and Trampeters

The rhythms marked by the drums and the trumpets mark the different phases of the race and accompany the whole Sartiglia. On the day of the race, early in the morning, the group of drummers and trumpeters escort a herald who, on horseback, among the main streets  of the city, reads the announcement of the Sartiglia event, inviting the people to watch the race to the star. Very striking are the costumes and the regal dresses in bright and colorful colors. They precede and announce the procession creating suggestions and expectations in the public.


La Vestizione (The Dressing)

The dressing is the most solemn ceremony of the event that takes place at the headquarters of the gremio. The “massaieddas”, the young girls dressed in traditional oristanese costume bring Su Componidori dresses on a special basket called corbula. Then follow “sa Massaia manna” the woman who will oversee the entire ceremonial of dressing.

Su Componidori wears leather pants, a white shirt and a coietto, a leather jacket that extends like a kilt to the front. At the end of the ceremony the mysterious mask is placed on the knight’s face. This is one of the most exciting moments of the entire Sartiglia ceremonial: the man turns into Su Componidori. The arrangement on the head of an embroidered veil and the cylinder finish the dressing of the one who can not touch the ground until the end of the races. In fact, an artisan accompanies the horse up to sa mesitta, the table where the knight transfigured: from there, Componidori will mount on his elegantly harnessed horse.

The Race to the star

Su Componidori will first try his luck trying to catch the target at a great gallop, then it will be the turn of his two aides. Then all the other knights will be taking part and given the honor of holding the sword. In fact, he will only be able to choose who among the participating riders will face the path to grasp the star. The riders who succeed in capturing another star on the second day of Sartiglia will receive a small gold star as a prize. When Componidori arrives at the end of the race, he returns to the path showing the swords used and that will be delivered to the maximum authority of the Gremio. Here he receives the Stocco, the wooden spear. Only he and his teammates will be granted the honor of facing the path again and groped for one last time the star

The pariglie Race

The race takes place in via Mazzini, a path that remains outside the ancient walled city. From here the daring acrobatics of the knights take off, which after months of preparation give vent to their enthusiasm and their abilities. The series of developments on the pariglia de su Componidori opens. The three riders make the transition with the paired horses led by the side riders while the head-guard faces the path with his hands on the shoulders of his companions. In recent years, high school performances mark a unique and unrepeatable spectacle. The last step on the path is once again tackled by su Componidori with his team. The closing of the race is marked by the passage of the head coach that performs another Remada.

La svestizione (The undressing)

The concluded event has its term in the ceremony of undressing the leader. Approaching the horse up to sa mesitta, once again making sure that it does not touch the ground, dismounts from the horse directly on the table. Here the undressing will take place. The Massaieddas, removed the cylinder and the veil, melt the tapes that for hours have tightened the mysterious mask. Once the mask is removed it ceases on Componidori and the man’s face reappears and returns to reality

Reached the room and “sa mesitta” in complete silence, the leader can then jump on the table dismissing his horse to an artisan. The extraordinary drum roll marks the moment when the mask is removed: from that moment on Su Componidori returns a simple knight.



In the history of Sartiglia, 4 women received the investiture of Su Componidori. The most recent were Valentina Uda in 2013 and Emanuela Colombino in 2104. Both veterans of the race having already participated for more than 10 years at the Sartiglia and having hit the star several times.

The role of women is also the most important one in the dressing phase: the massaieddas. The young girls in traditional Sardinian dress who proceed with care to the dressing of the knight. Proceed under the watchful eye of the Massa manna, the oldest and most experienced that ends this solemn ceremony with great care and attention.