The barefoot run in Cabras

From the medieval age to the eighteenth century, Islamic pirates have always been a huge problem for Sardinia. Their heavy sea patrolling made really hard to navigate from and to the island, the constant raids on the ground impeded permanent settlements on the coasts.

Cabras, In the Oristano county, was the main village in the Sinis peninsula and therefore constantly exposed to the risk of raids, the memory of those events in so rooted in the area to influence even the main religious occurrence, the race of the barefooted.

The first weekend of September, hundreds of barefoot believers take part in a running procession through the town's countryside, accompanying the statue of the holy saviour for a seven kilometers route. They wear only an ancient Sardinian male suit called is cratzonis e sa camisa (literally pants and shirt), which consists of simple breeches and a long shirt made of white cloth, tight at the waist by a girdle. The practice of proceed barefoot maybe had its origins in ancient times, due to the presence of many swaps in the territory, later on it remained gaining also the meaning of penance.

The rite is an historical and religious re-enactment of the resistance of Cabras to a pirate raid in 1619, the prompt opposition saved both the residents and the statue of the saint patron, placed in a rural church.

The building still exists in its Seventeenth-century setup, it rises on an underground pagan temple, which had a well in its centre and precious extemporaneous inscriptions on its walls, written to tribute Mars, Venus and Hercules. After the successful resistance it was surrounded by a Novenario, a group of little houses called is munisteris or cumbessias, usually placed around holy places, where people gathered for nine (nove) days waiting for the religious festivities. From this core a little village was born, its structure clearly shows the constant need of defenses against big military attacks.

The feast is probably a Bizantyne christianization of a pagan cult (from Hercules to Jesus Christ), it originally occurred on August 6th, the day of the feast of the holy transfiguration, but it was moved in 1908 to make it match the start of the farming year.

The first saturday of September is corridoris (the runners), gather at dawn in the Church of the assumption in Cabras, where they take the statue of the holy Saviour. It's a sculpture made of wood with golden decorations (estofado de oro), dated back to the early 1600, the same period the feast has its origins. Two runners take the carrying poles, while other two hold the end of a stabilizer placed across the closed tabernacle, used to protect the statue from dust and dirt. The race is leaded by a standard bearer who displays the red banner of the saint, he forms a special team with the carrying men called sa muda, the shift. Several groups take turns during the long and hard route, to assume these onerous tasks.

When the sanctuary is reached, always running through unpaved routes, the religious celebrations begin and a huge common lunch takes place, it will drag on until night with dances and singing. Sunday morning after the high mass, a procession with the statue of the saint goes through the village surrounding the sanctuary, ending with the performance of traditional chants called goccius, accompanied by launeddas and diatonic organ. At dusk, always running, the penitents took the saint back to Cabras, where the priest ends the celebration with his blessing.