Weddings in Sardinia: a journey between universal feelings and ancient traditions
The origins of wedding traditions in Sardinia are lost in the mists of time and combine ancestral rites and symbolic gestures that tell the story of entire communities among sounds, colours, songs and ancient knowledge.
Weddings in Sardinia are rituals in which religious elements, superstitious gestures and ancient folk traditions distinguish the history of a thousand-year-old land famous all over the world for its blue and crystalline sea, the white sandy beaches and the natural landscapes where the scents of uncontaminated nature reign.
Rich in an extraordinary charm, the Sardinian customs related to weddings have their roots in the mists of time and on the island. As happens in other places in Italy, the Catholic sacred rite evokes the traditions of pre-existing pagan cults that with the advent of Christianity did not disappear but were reworked into religious practices, giving life to unique rituals.
There are two marriages in the island tradition, protagonists of beautiful historical re-enactments that characterize the Sardinian summer: Sa Coia Maurreddina, held in Santadi, in the south-west of Sardinia on the second Sunday of August, and Sa Coja Antiga Cerexina, also known as Antico Sposalizio Selargino, the oldest and most faithful reproduction of the historic Campidanese wedding.
For the organization of Sa Coia Maurreddina, or Mauritanian wedding, the re-enactment of the rituals of the agro-pastoral community of the lower Sulcis, the preparations last weeks and include: the making of the tailored clothes, in brocade and silk for the bride and black orbace, a rough woollen cloth typical of Sardinia, and fine linen for the groom, the selection of the strongest oxen, the decoration of the traccas (carts) and the choice of songs.
The idea of proposing a marriage celebration based on the rites of the past, which are now falling into disuse, was a group of young Santas who in June 1968, organized the first edition of what is now one of the identifying events of Sardinia.
The nickname “Mauritano'” was chosen because, since ancient times, the people of Sulcis were called maurreddinus because according to a theory based on historical sources such as the Bellum Vandalicum of Procopio, they would descend from the Mauri, inhabitants of the Roman Mauretania, an area corresponding to the northern territories of today’s States of Algeria and Morocco. According to this theory, at the time of the Vandal invasion of Sardinia and North Africa in the sixth century AD, a group of Mauri moved to the southwest of the island, and from that moment the Sardinians would have taken to call maureddinus the inhabitants of this part of Sardinia.
According to another hypothesis, the correct name with which the inhabitants of the southwest of Sardinia were known is meureddinus, a term derived from the Sardinian meurra, or blackbird, referring to the dark colour of the clothes.
Tradition has it that on the wedding day the traccas, embellished with tapestries, vine shoots, wheat and flowers, are pulled by oxen over a carpet of red petals and twigs. The bride and groom get on their cart and together with the wedding procession, among the notes of the Luneddas players, they reach the place where the function will take place. The time of the ceremony is marked by ancient auspicious rituals such as the blessing of the spouses and the sa’razia (grace), that is, the rupture of a dish containing rice, wheat, salt, coins and rose petals, symbols of abundance, wisdom, wealth and love, that are scattered over the head of the newlyweds.
Weddings in Sardinia: from the Mauritano wedding to the Old Selargino Marriage
Sa Coja Antiga Cerexina, or Antico Sposalizio Selargino, is the authentic reproduction of the ancient wedding in the Campidanese style as it was celebrated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a choral and festive event that involves not only the spouses but the entire community. The event is organized every September in Selargius, a town just outside Cagliari, one of the ideal destinations for an unforgettable honeymoon in Sardinia.
The celebrations begin on Thursdays or Fridays with the bridegroom who, accompanied by a group of boys in traditional clothes, joins the bride-to-be’s house on an adorned wagon and sings a serenade under her window. On Saturdays, carts pulled by oxen and preceded by a procession in traditional clothes and launeddas players, bring the bride’s trousseau to the house she will share with her future husband.
Finally, Sunday begins with the dressing of the bride and groom who wear traditional selargini wedding dresses enriched with precious jewels. When ready, the two young people, accompanied by the procession, head to the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the long celebration in Sardinian campidanese takes place. After the exchange of the rings, the hands of the bride and groom are joined by sa Cadena, the wedding chain, a symbol of faith and eternal bond, composed of 66 silver rings. At the end of the religious service, the couple leaves the church with applause accompanied by the launch of two doves.
At this point, the celebration continues in the nearby church of San Giuliano, where the two newlyweds write their promises of love that will be kept in the small sanctuary and read by the firstborn on the occasion of the twenty-fifth year of marriage. The celebrations continue with the wedding feast preceded by auspicious rites to bless the spouses and the sa’razia, which also characterize the Mauritanian wedding.
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