The Saracino Joust
"Vaunt-couriers have I seen upon your land,O Aretines, and foragers go forth, tournaments stricken, and the joustings run"
Chant XXII Inferno, The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Saracino Joust is the most important historical reenactment of Arezzo. Dante Alighieri wrote about it in his Comedy but the Saracino Joust has roots in the Middle-Ages. It is the tournament which every year attracts thousands of visitors in Arezzo and that people from Arezzo are passion about.
It gathers them in Piazza Grande and through the old city centre streets between parades, flag flights, and Medieval parties. It is the population feast, the most loved one and it takes place twice a year: the second to last Saturday of June in its night edition dedicated to Saint Donato and the first Sunday of September in the afternoon edition dedicated to Our Patron Lady of the Comfort, the protectress of the city. In the Saracino Joust the historic districts of Arezzo challenge each other on horseback bringing up the banners of their colors: Quartiere di Porta del Foro in yellow and crimson colors, Quartiere di Porta Crucifera in red and green colors, Quartiere di Porta Sant’Andrea in white and green colors and Quartiere di Porta Santo Spirito in blue and yellow colors. It is a challenge all against all, a horse race against the mechanical Buratto which represents the ancient enemy of the King of the Indies. Race after race, the knights wield a wooden lance to hit the Buratto, which holds the scoreboard in the left arm, obtaining the highest score with a spectacular aim and winning the much-desired Lancia d'Oro. The Saracino Joust is an event to experience in the summer including the events preceding the Joust such as the Settimana del Quartierista, la Provaccia del Saracino and the Parade of the Joust. Its enthralling energy can be felt all year round in the museums and historical headquarters of the Quartieri with itineraries dedicated to the Arezzo Middle-Ages.
Places of the Joust
The Saracino Joust takes place in Piazza Grande in Arezzo, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy and thanks to its rituals it touches all the most beautiful and significant places of Arezzo. The historical headquarters of the Quartieri and their museums, Piazza San Domenico and San Francis Square, Corso Italia for the historical parade of the Joust, Piazza del Comune and the Cathedral of the Saints Peter and Donato. A magic which can be lived all the year in the Palazzo dei Priori, the Palazzo del Comune di Arezzo, where there is a museum path called “I Colori della Giostra”.
The joust year
In Arezzo the Joust lasts all the year. In addition to the two editions of the Saracino Joust in June and September, this feast is celebrated all the year with a calendar rich in appointments and rituals. The second Saturday of January, there is the ceremony of the offering of the candle to the Blessed Gregory X so that he may bless and protect the Joust. The first Saturday of February, in the courtyard of the Palazzo Comunale, there is the award ceremony of the jousters, the true heroes of the Saracino. The first Sunday of March, in the Palazzo del Comune there is the Civitas Arretii award dedicated to the people, institutions and association who through their work contributed to the dissemination of the traditions of Arezzo. June is a joust month. Before all, there is the presentation of the Lancia d'Oro to the city followed by the ceremony of the extraction of the careers (drawing lots) that is the order in which the knights of the four districts run, then the oath of the captains of the four districts of the Saracino Joust. Then comes the week of the Saracino trials in Piazza Grande, where the newcomers and experienced riders run on the race against the Buratto, begins. It starts even the settimana del quartierista, which is the week before the Joust where in the historical headquarters of the quartieri there are parties and events. Then the marking of the horses and the the famous Provaccia. The following evening the cene propiziatorie in the four districts take place: they gather around a table, tight around their own colors thousands of quartieristi who keep on together until the Saturday of Joust when the Saracino night edition is run. The same thing is repeated between the end of August and the beginning of September, when we prepare ourselves with rites, trials and celebrations at the Saracino Joust dedicated to Our Lady of the Comfort.
A brief guide to the Saracino Joust day
Every moment of the Saracino Joust day is filled with celebrations, rituals, parades and cannon shots. From the Medicean Fortress of Arezzo the first mortar shot is fired. The city trembles, the Aretinians tremble because they know what awaits them, the day of celebration they have waited for all the year. The Fanti of the Comune withdraw the Lancia d'Oro that had been kept in the Cathedral after being presented to the city of Arezzo. At 11am, the second mortar shot explodes and the herald of the Saracino Joust, the thundering voice of the event, begins the reading of the Announcement of the Joust to the population. The sound of the bell tower of the Palazzo del Comune, accompanies the historical parade of the figures of the four districts which moves from the Palazzo dei Priori to get to the Pieve di Santa Maria, in Piazza San Michele, in Corso Italia, along Via Roma and to Saint Francis Square. The Lancia d’Oro approaches via Bicchieraia for being kept in the Headquarters of the association Signa Arretii. The third mortar shot. There is the blessing of the jousters and arms of the districts in their respective churches. All the people involved in the parade meet in Piazza San Domenico. The fourth mortar shot and the start of the parade to reach the Duomo along Via Sassoverde and Via Ricasoli. The blessing by the Bishop in the churchyard of the Cathedral accompanied by the Fourteenth-century warrior insignia of Bishop Guido Tarlati. The spectacular historical Parade to reach Piazza Grande along Via Ricasoli, Via dei Pileati, Corso Italia, Via Roma, Piazza Guido Monaco, Via Guido Monaco, Saint Francis Square, Via Cavour, Via Mazzini and Via Borgunto. The fifth mortar shot marks the entrance of the flag-throwers of the Joust and their performance in Piazza Grande. Enter the historical parade to the sound of trumpets and drums. Here in the deafening silence of the square the voice of the Herald, reading the Battle of Buratto, resounds. Then comes the greeting of the Army and the Hymn of Arezzo, which all, jousters, public and quartieristi sing with one voice with the hand strictly on the heart. , is sounded. Now it is time for the joust. The riders' races, also known as careers, begin. The first career, the second and any potential playoff career. At the winner district, the Mayor delivers the Lancia d’Oro and in a riot of colors and shouts of jubilation the quartieristi, the district army and the public of the winning colors pour into Piazza Grande and travel to the Cathedral for the Te Deum.
The Lance d’Oro of the Master Francesco Conti, the sketch contest and the craftsmen masterpieces
The Lancia d’Oro is the precious trophy of the Saracino Joust, it is a walnut, linden or maple wood lance coated with a thin layer of gold. It is embellished with carvings and paintings, semi-precious stones, ceramics, glass and metals. Each edition of the Joust sees the birth of a new Lancia d’Oro. Each are unique pieces. Masterpieces born from the encounter of the most excellent designers of the territory, awarded by the Municipality of Arezzo, and from the ancient skill of Francesco Conti, the Master engraver of the Lance d’oro of the Saracen Joust. The Lancia d’Oro is an imposing work of 3 meters and 55 in length. The Aretinians affectionately call it "The Pitcher". The handle of the Lancia d’Oro depicts the historical facts or characters that made the city of Arezzo great. For each edition (in June, September and for special editions) the Lancia d’Oro always has a different dedication. It is made on the sketch of the artist winner of the competition of ideas for the realization of the handle of the lance and always famous artists participate in this competition. The Lancia d’Oro is officially presented to the city on the day of the career extraction ceremony in Piazza del Comune and then transferred to the cathedral where it will remain exposed until the day of the Joust.
It will then be up to the ability of the jousters to conquer and deliver it to the hands of the rector of their district which will keep it forever in the rack of the room of victories where each district holds the Lance d’Oro won from 1931 to today. The golden symbol of a dream come true: to be absolute winners of the city of Arezzo.