|The horsemen still at full gallop
circle the church six times. The riflemen continue shooting, the excitement of the crowd is at its
peak, the horses brush against the people in the first row who would not renounce their position
in the spectacle or the emotions they feel for anything. Sometimes some of the horses bolt and
finish in the crowd, but no one is worried because this is also part of the ritual, at least part of
the pagan ritual that arouses primitive instincts of the crowd.
||The clouds of dust raised by the
horses' hoofs, the pungent smell of the black powder of the thousands of blank cartridges, the
stifling heat of the July sun, the excitement and the deafening cheers of the crowd, all play a
part in this spectacle that perhaps takes us back to the ancient origin of this festival.
Before finishing the 7th circuit of the church the horsemen ride down to a small square, as far
as "sa muredda" which is an embankment in the middle of which there is a cross.
|They circle the cross six times,
three in one direction and three in the other, then they gallop back to the church. The dark
mantle of the horses is soaked in sweat and covered in dust and on their flanks one can see the
bleeding cuts left by the spurs.
|The horsemen lower the flags,
attend the religious ceremony
and then, before going back to their village, they give the flags and the yellow brocade standard
of Santu Antine, to the parish priest, who puts them in an old wooden box. The following year he will give
them to other young men which both for faith and "balentia" will have to defend the standard
from the attack of the "unfaithful" and Massenzio will be defeated once again.
|The "Ardia" is over but the memory
will live for years in the stories told of the valour and the ability of those young horsemen and
the old people will tell again about the miracles of this warrior Saint. On the second Sunday
after the 7th of July there is another "Ardia", this time on foot and the whole village takes part
Festivals such as the "Ardia" are not well known like the famous emerald, blue and turquoise
sea or the yachting regattas of Costa Smeralda but they are probably the most beautiful, the
most evocative and the most emotive events of this ancient island.