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  • Giostra del Saracino (The Joust of the Saracen)

    By Anthony Parente

    Entrance of the Knights at the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo
    If you happen to be near the town of Arezzo in June or September, you will want to make sure you witness the Joust of the Saracen. This historical reenactment is filled with pageantry and games as the town is transformed back to the 14th century and all those that participate are dressed in costumes from that period.

    The Joust of the Saracen dates back to the crusades. It was primarily a military training exercise that was the result of the raids of the Saracens on Arezzo and other parts of Italy. The oldest rules for the joust date back to 1677, which stated that any knight who attended the event was eligible to participate. After a long period of inactivity, the Joust of the Saracen was renewed in 1931. The rules were slightly altered to only allow each neighborhood a team of knights to participate and compete for the Lancia d'Oro (golden lance).

    The competition takes place every year in the Piazza Grande on the second to the last Saturday in June during the evening (Giostra di San Donato) and the first Sunday in September during the afternoon (Giostra della Madonna del Conforto). The four neighborhoods that participate in the competition are: Porta Crucifera (red and green colors), Porta del Foro (yellow and crimson colors), Porta S. Andrea (white and green colors) and Porta S. Spitiro (yellow and blue colors).

    Carriera del Cavaliere di Porta S. Spirito, Giostra del Saracino, Arezzo, Italy
    The day begins with the town herald reading the proclamation of the joust. Then there is a colorful procession throughout the streets of Arezzo followed by a blessing of the jousters by the bishop on the steps of the Duomo. The procession finally makes its way to the piazza. The piazza is filled with flag bearers, archers and soldiers representing each neighborhood as fans offer their support in hopes their knights will be victorious. All the pageantry and fanfare leads us to the tournament. Each knight is equipped with a lance and their objective is to hit the "Buratto Re delle Indie", which is a wooden dummy on a swivel that represents a Saracen warrior. The "Buratto" holds a shield that has various scores on it in one hand and a mazzafrusto, which is a whip that has three heavy leather balls at the end, in the other hand. Not only is the knight aiming for the most points on the shield he must avoid being hit by the mazzafrusto. After each run by the jouster, the score is announced and written on the score sheet for all to see. Once the final jouster hits the mark, the points are tallied and the winning neighborhood is awarded the Lancia d'Oro (golden lance).

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