Experience Medieval Madness in Tuscany at the Saracen Joust of Arezzo
An historical re-enactment of the victory of Christianity over Islam is due to be celebrated once more in Arezzo, a town in central Italy, situated in the verdant Tuscany region. The Jousting of the Saracens takes place on the first Sunday of September, as well as on the third Sunday of June and features eight competing knights, two each from rival districts of Arezzo.
The Jousting of the Saracens, however, is much more than a simple contest of men at arms. Instead, Arezzo ensures the event is celebrated in a glorious style intended to mentally transport visitors back to the Middle Ages. On each jousting day the festivities begin in the morning with a ceremonial reading of the joust challenge by a colourfully dressed Herald.
This is followed by a procession worthy of the medieval era, with hundreds of individuals in period dress parading down the town’s streets, accompanied by 27 bedecked horses. The highlight of the parade is a blessing given to the men at arms by the Bishop of Arezzo as he stands on the steps of the Duomo.
The joust itself takes place in the imposing setting of the town’s Piazza Grande and features the knights attacking a wooden, armoured figure meant to represent the Saracens, a name that referred to the Turks, the bitter enemy of Italy during the Middle Ages. Victory in the joust is determined by points, with judges keeping track of which knights wound the Saracen the most times and the most grievously.
The contest is made more difficult by the fact that the Saracen figure is not fixed in place, but rotates with the blows. Throughout the joust, the audience stands in sections that indicate which pair of knights is the champion for their quarter of Arezzo. The quarter cheering on the winning knight receives a ceremonial golden lance.
For more details on the Saracen Joust can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saracen_Joust.