S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo, running for faith and tradition

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

S'Ardia, reckless horse race in Sedilo
Riders darting up to Saint Constantine’s sanctuary for S’Ardia

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.

S'Ardia, reckless horse race in Sedilo
The three “flags”, the first three riders racing towards the sanctuary uphill

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 S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo.

  1. Chissà se quest’anno la corsa sarà come piace ai sedilesi!

    • Sono curiosa di vedere se il comune continua a imporre misure di sicurezza e anche quest’anno ci saranno pochi cavalieri che partecipano…

  2. Grande attente pour ” L’Ardia” de cette année! Les cavaliers pourront-ils exprimer leur foi comme ils ont fait depuis des siècles, ou devront-ils se plier à la modernité ?

  3. This is fantastic photograph.

  4. Great photograph and blog! I will be visiting Sardegna in July and was wondering if you had any advice for accomodation in/around Sedilo during the race. We will have a car.
    Thanks so much and keep up the great writing.

    • Hi Josephine, that’s great that you want to see the race, very likely I will be there too. The festival is from the 5th to the 7th of July. In Sedilo I know of a B&B called Ninnìa, here is their website , and one called Lichitu, maybe a little more expensive, here is their website . Let me know if you need more tips, I’m at home in Sedilo ;)

  5. Hi

    I understand the race starts on the 6th July. Does anyone know what time the race starts and what the best time to get there is? Thanks.

    • Hi Edita, the horses start the parade from the village church around 6pm and they arrive on the sanctuary where the race is around 7pm. This is when the race will start, but if you want to find good spots to see it you should get there at least an hour beforehand, many people go even earlier. Also, the same race will happen also on the day after around 7am. Same scheme, 6am they meet at the church, around 7am they will do the race after parading along the village. If you plan to go, have fun!

  6. Perfect. Thank you so much Angela. Just need to hire a car now :). Many thanks.

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