St.Efisio parade: the 2019 edition

St. Efisio parade: the martyr warrior patron saint of Sardinia

In Sardinia May 1st is synonymous with the parade of St. Efisio, the warrior martyr patron of the island, who in 1656 – according to the chronicles of Canon Giovanni Spano – appeared in a dream to the Viceroy Count of Lemos, asking for the vote of a procession in exchange for the liberation of Sardinia from the plague, arrived in Alghero through a group of Catalan sailors and then spread throughout the region.

A religious procession that still today, after 362 years, is felt by all Sardinians, as the popular and mystical event par excellence able to bring together believers, ordinary citizens, and tourists for the grandeur of the parade, the length of the route, its symbolic stages and its mystical halo.

It is no coincidence that the parade of St. Efisio was included in the Italian list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity under the patronage of UNESCO

Who was St.Efisio?

An official of the Roman army under Diocletian, Efisio – born in Jerusalem, was sent to the Italian peninsula to fight Christians. Legend has it that, on his way, he had a vision of his martyrdom and he converted himself to Christianity when he reached Gaeta, where he was christened. He was then sent to Sardinia to fight paganism in the inner parts of the island. His conversion was such a sudden and passionate one that he even wrote to the Emperor to persuade him to embrace the Christian faith. Diocletian instead, condemned him to the martyrdom to punish his provocation. Confined to Cagliari in the prison that bears his name and that can still be visited in the district of Stampace, he was then taken to Nora to avert an insurrection of the people and executed. Before being killed, however, he promised to defend Cagliari and its people forever.

St.Efisio parade’s route

St Efisio parade starts on April 30th with a solemn moment: the statue of the saint is dressed by the Gonfalone Brotherhood’s members in the church of Stampace. Here, some privileged ones also pack the “suitcase of the saint” with simple garments the saint will dress once in Giorgino, at a short distance from Cagliari. The statue is embellished with votive offerings donated by the faithfuls and then set on a 17th-century coach to start its long route.

The parade last four days: on May 1st, the coach leaves from the homonymous church in Stampace, one of the historical district of Cagliari, and parades along the city center’s main streets forerun by the “traccas” (carriages pulled by oxen decorated with flowers, ribbons, and lace), folk groups coming from 94 Sardinian villages, each displaying its own traditional feast costume and goes on with knights and militia (ancient military men).

Once in Via Roma, before the Art Noveau building of the city Hall, the coach is greeted by the Alter Nos, an istitutional figure who embodies the merge between faith and municipal representative. The arrival of the coach is forerun by the music of the launeddas (typical Sardinian musical instruments) and the paved floor of Via Roma is sprinkled with flower petals and literally transformed into a scented and colorful carpet. Dozens of women in traditional costume throw petals from large baskets along the road in what is one of the most exciting moments of the entire journey of the saint, “Sa Ramadura“.

When the coach arrives, all the ships docked in the port tribute the saint playing the sirens, while the crowd flocks around the coach to ask for grace or just to whisper a prayer. From this moment on, thousands of people follow the saint until Nora, on a 65 kilometers route.

St. Efisio 2019 edition

Though St. Efisio Parade was born as a religious procession, after more than 362 editions it’s considered the feast of all Sardinia, of all its people and the most important display of traditional costumes.

After the Ramadura, the simulacrum of the saint, heads towards the fishermen village of Giorgino, then to Sarroch, Villa San Pietro, Pula e Nora. On May 4th, a smaller group of pilgrim head back to Cagliari. The parade proceeds silent, whispering prayersat the light of the torches. The simulacrum is then brought back to the church of Stampace where it will rest until the following year.