The rituals of Oristano’s flamboyant Sa Sartiglia festival perhaps originated with knights on the Second Crusade, who in the eleventh century may well have imported the trappings of Saracen tournaments to Sardinia. In the period of the Spanish domination, similarly lavish feasts were held for the ruling knights. In time, these celebrations took on a more theatrical aspect and merged with the annual Carnival – the Sa Sartiglia is now a three-day festival ending on Shrove Tuesday. With all the participants masked and costumed, the whole affair exudes a drama unrivalled by Sardinia’s other festivals. The climax of proceedings, in Piazza Eleonora, is the joust after which the festival is named, when mounted contestants attempt to lance a ring, or sartiglia, suspended in the air, charging towards it at full gallop.

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