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The Saracino Joust: a spectacular tradition

That of the Joust of the Saracen is perhaps the most celebrated and beloved event for the citizens of Arezzo. It is a medieval historical reenactment that offers not only the spectacle of costumed figures and a very special horse race, but shows us the entire city in celebration. The inhabitants of the districts sing hymns and dress in the colors of the Historic Gates for the entire week leading up to the sporting event. In short, a spectacle that makes the center of Arezzo something special to behold!
la giostra del saracino - the saracino joust

 Where does the Joust take place?

Piazza Grande is the city’s historic square, the most beautiful and picturesque. Right here is where the Buratto is challenged and the districts compete for the Golden Lance. The Piazza is set up and filled with rena to allow the horses to race. Stages and scaffolding are built and finally the puppet representing the King of the Indies is set up. The center of Arezzo comes alive with something very special : each district has its own venue in celebration. The Saracino thus influences the whole city, not just the square where the knights compete.

When does Arezzo’s Joust of the Saracen turn?

It is possible to enjoy the spectacle of the Joust twice a year : the Joust of San Donato – the patron saint of the city – is held on the penultimate Saturday of June in a night version, while on the first Sunday of September we can admire the festival during the day.
Don’t limit your visit to the city for the equestrian event alone, however : the quarters come alive with all the passion of the wildest cheering from the day before, culminating the preparations for the race with the “Propitiatory Dinners” of all four contending quarters, amidst hymns and superstitious rituals.

An ancient tradition

“I saw already cavalier muover campo,
and begin flock to show them off,
and sometimes depart for their escape;
corridor I saw for your land,
o Aretini, and I saw gir gualdane,
fedir tournaments and run jousting;
when with trumpets, and when with bells,
with drums and with castellated nods,
and with homely things and with instranes;”

With these words the Supreme Poet Dante Alighieri seems to hint at the city of Arezzo’s passion for jousts and chivalric contests, and there has long been dispute over the precise meaning of the second triplet of the twenty-second canto of Dante’s Inferno.
The first official record of a joust of chivalry in Arezzo dates back to 1260, while in 1535 city authorities refer directly to a “giostra ad burattum,” which directly recalls “the opponent” of the contenders, the famous Saracino.

It would have to wait, however, until August 7, 1931 – St. Donato’s Day – to see the joust resurrected in its modern version in which the four quarters (Porta Crucifera, Porta del Foro, Porta Sant’Andrea and Porta Santo Spirito) compete ,attacking the “Buratto” Saracino, for the coveted Lancia D’Oro.

The Joust of the Saracen: the race begins

Accompanied by the roll of drums and the ringing of clarions a procession parades through the city before the Joust. The spectacular Flag-wavers with more than three hundred costumed figures converge on the Piazza Grande surrounded by the ‘passionate cheers of the quartieristi. These fill the stands and the sides of the Piazza and prepare for the Joust.

Last to make their entrance are the 8 jousters and the Captains of the Quarters followed by the representatives of their noble houses.
It is then the turn of the musicians, who intone the Hymn of the Joust of the Saracen, sung by the whole square. At the end of the Hymn, the City Herald reads the “disfida di Buratto,” a declaration of war addressed by the King of the Indies – the Saracen – to the knights of the City.

How It Works

At this point the actual competition begins. The jousters will have to hit with their lances a board attached to the Buratto’s shield, which is divided into quadrants on which are marked the points to be awarded after striking the blow. If the knight loses his spear he will see his score nullified, while if the blow is strong enough to break the weapon the points will be doubled. The district with the highest score gets the coveted jousting prize, the Golden Spear.

A very particoular prize: the Golden Spear

The prize presented to the Rector of the winning Quarter is a Golden Lance. Lance actually painted and made of walnut, linden or maple wood 3 meters and 55 centimeters long made by historic carver Francesco Conti. This skilled craftsman has been shaping what the citizens of Arezzo affectionately call “the Brocco” for decades now. The “Brocco” is officially displayed at the Quartieri on the day of the drawing of the “chariots” and displayed until the victory of the joust in the Cathedral of San Donato. Each edition the lance has a different dedication, which is made from a sketch by the winning artist of a special competition that is held from year to year and in which nationally and internationally renowned artists participate.

The lance is kept on beautiful display in the “Hall of Victories” of the Winning Quarter. It is precisely in the Halls that all the spears from the historic first edition in 1931 are kept.

Curiosities

The Saracen Joust is recounted and illustrated in a story that appeared in Mickey Mouse 1606 of September 1986. Drawn by the famous Luciano Gatto, the story “Uncle Scrooge and the Saracen Joust” was written by Luciano Prosperi, a cartoonist , science fiction author and writer from Arezzo.

Where to see the Joust of the Saracen

You can watch the Joust live on the local television channel Teletruria or watch the Streaming of the Saracen Joust on the Facebook channel. To see the Saracino in Piazza Grande, we recommend that you move well in advance to find tickets-they go fast.

Antiche Mura and the Saracino

The Joust takes place in Piazza Grande, which is just a few minutes from our Bed And Breakfast Antiche Mura. During the Saracino week our guests need only to walk around and find themselves into a parallel and colorful world. To those who wish to visit Arezzo we can only say : the King of the Indies and our Knights are waiting for you!

Comfort Contemporaneo, avvolto nel fascino della storia

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