|The escorts receive the other six
flags. The parish priest and the mayor on their horses are at the head of the group and they ride
along the streets of the village towards the sanctuary. Directly behind the mayor and the priest
is "sa prima pandela" and after him the second and the third flag bearers and the men of the
escort who defend "sa prima pandela" from the young horsemen who will try to over
||If they succeeded it will be a
"balentia" which means a brave deed in the local dialect. On the contrary for "sa prima
pandela" it would be a defeat and an unacceptable shame. In this part of the festival the
warrior's soul prevails over the religious spirit. The group goes towards the exit of the village
and its progress is proclaimed to people by rifle shots. There are more than 50,000 people
along the course, in the amphitheatre and at the foot of the sanctuary.
|As the echo of the shots come
nearer, the tension in the crowd increases. At the exit of the village there is "Su Fronti Mannu"
where the procession stops for some minutes in order to pray in front of a stone cross with "in
hoc signo vinces" written on it. From there one can see the church in the distance.
procession goes on slowly as far as "su frontigheddu" a small hill which overlooks the
church. Here the parish priest blesses the
horsemen and tells them to ride with a religious spirit. The mayor and parish priest then ride
down the hill towards the steps of the amphitheatre. The horsemen can hardly managed to
control their own impatience and transmit their tension to their horses.
The parish priest should start the race but almost always "su prima pandela" chooses the most
suitable moment and bursts away at full gallop down the hill.
|This is the most dangerous
moment, the speed of the horses is unbelievable, the narrow entrance under the Arch of
Costantino grows nearer. The escort protects "sa prima pandela" from the fervor of one hundred
pursuing horsemen, who gallop through the rounds of rifle fire and clouds of dust, thrusting
their spurs into the flanks of the horses. They try to overtake "sa prima pandela" to get to the
entrance of the arch before him. To fail could mean to run into the stone columns at top speed
and to risk death, as happened many times in the past.
Only a few, but interminable seconds, then "sa prima pandela" darts under the arch and takes
the path that leads to the church.