S’Ardia, the wild horse race in Sedilo that takes places every 6th and 7th of July, never fails to attract thousands of visitors from Sardinia, Italy, and Europe.
Sedilo, a quiet village of some 2000 people in Oristano province in central Sardinia, holds every year one of the island’s most reckless festivals. While I’m not originally from Sedilo, my mother is, and so both her paternal and maternal sides of her family. This is why I could always sense their ardent devotion to this festival.
S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo, running recklessly for faith and tradition
Thousands of spectators stare in awe at S’Ardia horse race until the end, careless of the sun-drenched, dusty, hot, crowded sanctuary. It’s a wild, dangerous and suggestive race that sees some of the best riders of the island riding horses that don’t even seem fully tamed. Accidents are copious every year, more than one riders died during the run, and probably this overdose of adrenaline is what makes it a truly undying tradition and an unmissable annual date.
The main interpretation of this horse race in Sedilo is the commemoration of the Milvian Bridge battle that saw Emperor Constantine the Great defeat Maxentius between the 27th and the 28th of October 312 AD. The first three horse riders are the Emperor and his generals and the following three their guards carrying a wooden stick to chase the rest of the riders who embody the enemies away (and they do beat them heavily!). However, the festival is so ancient that its origins are lost in the mists of time. Very likely it was born as a pagan ritual later incorporated into the Catholic religion, similarly to most of our festivals.
The celebrations start in the church square with the priest’s blessing of the riders, who afterward parade along the village main street up to the sanctuary of Saint Constantine 2 km away introduced by a local folklore band. The sanctuary rests on a tiny hill overlooking the beautiful Lake Omodeo. The small church is busy with pilgrims all year, and this is largely visible as its inside walls are clothed with pictures and vows of faithful asking the saint to heal, help and give assistance in any way.
Here is a small video of the horse in Sedilo.
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