Festival of sant'efisio, saint efisio, Efisio di Elia

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Location of Sardinia
Area: 24,090 km²
Population: 1.6 million
Density: 69/km²
Capital: Cagliari

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Festival of Saint Efisio
Photo - www.understandingitaly.com
Every year on 1st May, the streets of Cagliari come alive with the largest and most colourful religious procession in the world. It is the Festival of Sant' Efisio and it has taken place here every year since 1656.
Festival of sant'efisio, saint efisio, Efisio di Elia

Efisio was a Roman officer sent to Sardinia by the Emperor Diocleziano to suppress christianity on the Island. However, during his time there, Efisio had an epiphany and rather than carrying out his orders, became a follower himself. When asked to renounce his new religion, he refused and was sentenced to death. He was initially imprisoned in Cagliari, and then moved secretly to a location on the coast for his execution, away from his many supporters. In the year 303 he was beheaded by a Roman soldier on the beach at Nora. A church was dedicated to him in Cagliari on the site where he was imprisoned and another at the place of his martyrdom.

In 1652, Sardinia was afflicted by a plague that killed half of the inhabitants of Cagliari. The population turned to their saint, Efisio di Elia, to save them. The authorities, in recognition of the tide of popular feeling, made an announcement that if the plague was halted by Saint Efisio, then the people would carry his statue in a procession from the church in Cagliari to the one in Nora, every year, for ever. The plague disappeared, and the people of Cagliari have kept their promise, every year, ever since.

Initially combined with the spring harvest festival, and involving a few local people, the procession has grown into a huge, colourful affair, involving thousands of people from all over Sardinia, taking part dressed in their national costumes. The festival lasts for four days and involves more than 5,000 people.

Festival of sant'efisio, saint efisio, Efisio di Elia

First, there are about 30 traditional 'Traccas', peasant carts drawn by oxen, decorated with flowers and traditional Sardinian produce. The "traccas" are followed by different groups of people all wearing the traditional costumes of their villages. They walk in procession, chanting or singing the traditional prayers that form part of the religious heritage of the island, creating a very evocative atmosphere. Among the most eye catching costumes are the orange coloured costumes from Desulo, the austere black dresses worn by the beautiful and very tall girls from Tempio, the traditional gold jewellery on the waistcoats of the costumes from Quartu and the barefooted fishermen from Cabras.

Festival of sant'efisio, saint efisio, Efisio di Elia
Photo: www.understandingitaly.com

Next come the horsemen and women. Originally from the Campidano region, they form the most spectacular part of the festival as the procession winds its way along the streets of the old part of Cagliari, lined with huge crowds of spectators.

At midday, the statue of Saint Efisio leaves his church in Cagliari inside a seventeenth-century gold plated coach drawn by a pair of huge oxen and accompanied by two mace-bearers. In front are the 'Guardiania'. Dressed in black top hats and tails, they are from a religious order dedicated to Saint Efisio. They are followed by the 'AlterNos, representatives of the mayor and two lines of religious brothers and sisters in humble dress.

The whole procession is accompanied by the sound of the 'launeddas', traditional Sardinian pipes, that create a haunting atmosphere as the statue makes its was through the crowds. Many people lean forward to touch the coach as it passes. Efisio's reputation is very strong among the local people who also credit him with saving the city from a French seige in 1793, and for helping them to rebuild it after it was badly damaged during the second world war.

Festival of sant'efisio, saint efisio, Efisio di Elia
Photo: www.understandingitaly.com

The procession makes its way through the streets of Cagliari, strewn with flowers, to be greeted with the sirens of the ships docked in the port of Cagliari, and the cheers of the crowds. The procession makes its way out of the city and through the countryside to Nora, accompanied by many smaller religious ceremonies and banquets to which all are welcome. On the evening of 4th May, the statue is brought back to Cagliari with a torchlit parade. Accompanied by the greeting "Altrus Annus", meaning "Other Years", Saint Efisio is returned to his church where he will remain until the next year's procession.

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Sardinia Information
Location of Sardinia
Area: 24,090 km²
Population: 1.6 million
Density: 69/km²
Capital: Cagliari

Find a hotel in Sardinia
Provinces
Comunes
  • Cagliari
    • Armungia
      Assemini
      Ballao
      Barrali
      Burcei
      Cagliari
      Capoterra
      Castiadas
      Decimomannu
      Decimoputzu
      Dolianova
      Domus De Maria
      Donori
      Elmas
      Escalaplano
      Escolca
      Esterzili
      Gergei
      Gesico
      Goni
      Guamaggiore
      Guasila
      Isili
      Mandas
      Maracalagonis
      Monastir
      Monserrato
      Muravera
      Nuragus
      Nurallao
      Nuraminis
      Nurri
      Orroli
      Ortacesus
      Pimentel
      Pula
      Quartu Sant'Elena
      Quartucciu
      Sadali
      Samatzai
      San Basilio
      San Nicolò Gerrei
      San Sperate
      San Vito
      Sant'Andrea Frius
      Sarroch
      Selargius
      Selegas
      Senorbì
      Serdiana
      Serri
      Sestu
      Settimo San Pietro
      Seulo
      Siliqua
      Silius
      Sinnai
      Siurgus Donigala
      Soleminis
      Suelli
      Teulada
      Ussana
      Uta
      Vallermosa
      Villa San Pietro
      Villanova Tulo
      Villaputzu
      Villasalto
      Villasimius
      Villasor
      Villaspeciosa

  • Carbonia-Iglesias
    • Buggerru
      Calasetta
      Carbonia
      Carloforte
      Domusnovas
      Fluminimaggiore
      Giba
      Gonnesa
      Iglesias
      Masainas
      Musei
      Narcao
      Nuxis
      Perdaxius
      Piscinas
      Portoscuso
      San Giovanni Suergiu
      Santadi
      Sant'Anna Arresi
      Sant'Antioco
      Tratalias
      Villamassargia
      Villaperuccio

  • Medio Campidano
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      Loculi
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      Orune
      Osidda
      Ottana
      Ovodda
      Posada
      Sarule
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      Siniscola
      Sorgono
      Teti
      Tiana
      Tonara
      Torpè

  • Ogliastra
    • Arzana
      Bari Sardo
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      Gairo
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      Ilbono
      Jerzu
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      Loceri
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      Osini
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      Seui
      Talana
      Tertenia
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      Ulassai
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      Villagrande Strisaili

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      Santa Teresa Gallura
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      Milis
      Modolo
      Mogorella
      Mogoro
      Montresta
      Morgongiori
      Narbolia
      Neoneli
      Norbello
      Nughedu Santa Vittoria
      Nurachi
      Nureci
      Ollastra
      Oristano
      Palmas Arborea
      Pau
      Paulilatino
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      Sagama
      Samugheo
      San Nicolò d'Arcidano
      San Vero Milis
      Santa Giusta
      Santu Lussurgiu
      Scano di Montiferro
      Sedilo
      Seneghe
      Senis
      Sennariolo
      Siamaggiore
      Siamanna
      Siapiccia
      Simala
      Simaxis
      Sini
      Siris
      Soddì
      Solarussa
      Sorradile
      Suni
      Tadasuni
      Terralba
      Tinnura
      Tramatza
      Tresnuraghes
      Ulà Tirso
      Uras
      Usellus
      Villa Sant'Antonio
      Villa Verde
      Villanova Truschedu
      Villaurbana
      Zeddiani
      Zerfaliu

  • Sassari
    • Alghero
      Anela
      Ardara
      Banari
      Benetutti
      Bessude
      Bonnanaro
      Bono
      Bonorva
      Borutta
      Bottidda
      Bultei
      Bulzi
      Burgos
      Cargeghe
      Castelsardo
      Cheremule
      Chiaramonti
      Codrongianos
      Cossoine
      Erula
      Esporlatu
      Florinas
      Giave
      Illorai
      Ittireddu
      Ittiri
      Laerru
      Mara
      Martis
      Monteleone Rocca Doria
      Mores
      Muros
      Nughedu San Nicolò
      Nule
      Nulvi
      Olmedo
      Osilo
      Ossi
      Ozieri
      Padria
      Pattada
      Perfugas
      Ploaghe
      Porto Torres
      Pozzomaggiore
      Putifigari
      Romana
      Santa Maria Coghinas
      Sassari
      Sedini
      Semestene
      Sennori
      Siligo
      Sorso
      Stintino
      Tergu
      Thiesi
      Tissi
      Torralba
      Tula
      Uri
      Usini
      Valledoria
      Viddalba
      Villanova Monteleone

Sardinia Flag
Sardinia Airports
Sardinia National Parks
Archipelago of La Maddalena National Park
Asinara National Park
Gennargentu National Park
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