Discovering the Quintana, one of the most striking Italian historic commemorations
The Quintana is a tournament in which six knights, each competing for one of the six historic neighborhoods of the city, ride the course one after the other trying to hit an effigy of an Arab warrior.
Time goes back to the Middle Ages. It happens every summer for a few days in the Italian city of Ascoli Piceno, where its inhabitants leave their daily life routine, to take part to the historical commemoration of the Quintana.
Every year there are many different commemorations everywhere in Europe, some of them are very old, while others are quite new. In several Italian cities, above all in the central regions, is quite easy to find some very old and famous tournaments, such as the Palio of Siena or the Quintana of Ascoli.
Ascoli Piceno is a town in the Marche Region, with a population of around 50.000.
The Quintana is very attended by inhabitants of the city, who work all the year round, to prepare this charming event. In fact, if you walk in the innumerable alleys of the old town centre, you could probably meet people planning old rituals or choreographing with flags, drums and trumpets.
The commemoration of the Quintana takes place twice a year: the daily edition on the first Sunday of August to celebrate Saint Emidio, both the Patron and first bishop of the city. (This year the race will be on Sunday, August 5th), while the night edition on the second Saturday of the month of July, in honor of Our Lady of Peace. The Purpose The Quintana is a tournament in which six knights, each competing for one of the six historic neighborhoods of the city, ride the course one after the other trying to hit an effigy of an Arab warrior. Strength and ability are necessary for the knight to win the palio or grand prize, which is a fine cloth, usually canvas, painted in various techniques by famous artists.
For those who know neither this commemoration nor the city of Ascoli, could think that the race is just an attractive event. In reality the Quintana is part of city life and continues to live because it has an important social purpose.
For many participants, to take part in this commemoration is a mission, rather than a hobby, because it is a way to proudly express the attachment to ones roots and to ones district of origin.
However this tournament has also a social role. In fact, what needs to be appreciated, is commitment, work and preparation that involves everyone of its participants. In this way the race aims to integrate, socialize and stimulate participation among the people, but it is also an educational tool which teaches that through passion, commitment and cooperation, it is possible to get good results and unforgettable emotions. Origins The modern version of the Quintana dates back to 1954 when, after a period of suspension, took place again thanks to the initiative of some historians. But the first news of the commemoration dates back to the XIV century.
In fact, the ancient statutes reported, that at the time was set a tournament to recall the invasion of the area by the Arab warriors in the IX century A.D.
It is for this reason, that the knight needs to hit a puppet with his spear, representing an Arab warrior.
The name Quintana could come from old French (quintane), or from Latin (quintus), but some historians believe that it was the original name of the puppet. In the Middle Ages the city of Ascoli was divided into six districts, which now participate in the race. These districts are: Piazzarola, Porta Maggiore, Porta Romana, Porta Solestà, Porta Tufilla and Sant'Emidio. In the past, other neighboring castles to the city took part to the tournament, while today these castles only participate in the parade.
Before and after the race, there is a historical parade, which is composed of more than 1,400 people, who interpret many figures included messengers, politicians, dames, knights, aristocrats, common people, warriors and musicians, adorned with ancient clothes packed with velvets, damasks and also enriched with tools, objects, weapons and animals. During the parade, people walk along some streets and squares of the old town centre for around 45-50 minutes.
The parade is one of the most interesting attraction of the Quintana, because during the walk many participants exhibit in choreographies with flags, drums and trumpets.
Before the race, all people that compose the parade meet in the largest square of the city centre and from this place go to the equipped court where the race is set. Once the game is finished, the group of people travel through the same streets and go back to their own districts to celebrate the victory or to cry the loss.
The Race The six knights compete individually. Each rider must run with his horse in a route that has a shape of the number eight. The entire itinerary is 720 meters long and the curves are very tight and difficult. The path is bordered. While running, the horse can’t go outside the border of the route nor step on it, otherwise must be applied some penalty points. In the center of the itinerary, between the two diagonals, a pole is placed that support the body of the puppet, which represent the Arab warrior and which is locally called Saraceno or Moro. On the puppet’s left arm a boards set with the score that must be hit by the knight’s spear. The score ranges from a minimum of 20 points to a maximum of 100.
To conclude his race, each rider must do three laps of the entire route for three times, being careful not to get penalty points, trying to get the highest score as possible and finishing every single race as soon as possible. In fact, even the race time has a score, and this is added to the sum obtained from all rounds played. Although it seems very easy, in reality in each race, everything is possible and there are many unexpected situations. Controversial Nowadays there are many historical commemorations, but not all of them are original. If the Quintana achieved its reputation, it is not just because of its charm, but also because it is a three-dimensional representation of cultural and historical events that contributed to transform the local history, as well as society and culture. In addition, the Quintana is one of the oldest and original Italian race traditions.
Often some animal-rights activists disapprove these events where animals are exploited, also because of the risk of their health. In other commemorations horses often die, both for the difficulty of the race and for the excessive use of drugs that are administered to them. In the Quintana, horses don’t die, because the race is not too difficult for them and a team of veterinarians conduct many tests on the animals before, during and after the race.
Riders usually get injured more than horses. In fact while running, the knights must carry a very heavy spear which collide quickly with the board.
In the past, unfortunately very often riders dislocated or broke their wrists and have been forced to abandon the race.
Tourism Tourism is one of the most important aspects of the Quintana, which leads into the city of Ascoli curious and lovers of commemorations, from all over the world, recording significant economic gains. From several years, in order to attract even more visitors, this event also hosts many Italian celebrities, invited to preside the parade.
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