The solemn Vows
The celebrations performed in May in honour of Saint Efisio date back to the XVII century. The plague which hit the island in the middle of the century is remembered as one of the most tragic episodes experienced by Sardinia in modern times, as for its duration and for the number of victims.
On 11th July 1652, the Municipality of Cagliari begged the Saint to protect the city from the disease, promising to honour him every year with a procession. Still today the City Administration is the guardian and guarantor of the vow dissolution. The original document of 1652 made by the Municipality is now kept at the State Archives of Cagliari.
In May 1657, the first procession was carried out: the simulacrum of the Saint was taken to the little church in Nora with the town authorities and the representatives of the cities freed from the disease. However, the Saint helped Cagliari a second time, in a marvellous way.
Between the 17th and the 18th February 1793, the French fleet led by the Admiral Truguet besieged Cagliari with a heavy bombardment. The people of Cagliari invoked the Saint and the popular troops led by Gerolamo Pitzolo warded off the French troops, that landed on the beach of Quartu Sant'Elena. The Saint was then called "the supreme commander of soldiers".
In 2014 the Municipality of Cagliari has started the procedures for the registration of the Rite of the dissolution of the Vow and the Feast of Saint Efisio in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, according to the Established Principles from the Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO and in close collaboration with the Archdiocese, the Confraternity and the Municipalities of Pula, Villa San Pietro, Capoterra and Sarroch.
Here below the “gocius”, the traditional prayer verses in Sardinian language:
De Casteddu appassionau – Fond of Cagliari
Sempri siais difensori – Be always its guardian
Sighei a essiri intercessori – Continue to be its mediator
Efis Martiri sagrau. - Efisio consecrated Martyr.
The Rite of the dissolution of the Vow from 1652
The Mayor entrusts to a member of the City Council (called Alter Nos) the responsibility of the rite. About 150 brothers of the Archconfraternity escort the Alter Nos and elect the "Third Guardian" as master of ceremonies.
The Archbishop, the representatives of the Metropolitan area, the parish priests, military chaplains and other members of the clergy, perform ceremonial functions, preside over the religious rites, accompany the procession and the pilgrimage. The canon and the Alter Nos, are witnesses of the respect of the Vow's conditions and of the rite's dissolution.
The 151st Regiment "Sassari" of Italian Army looks after the relics of the Saint, takes part in the procession and carries the carriage of the Saint in some parts of the pilgrimage.
For over 350 years this rite is attended by the community of Cagliari and by those along the processional route (Giorgino, Su Loi, Villa d’Orri, Sarroch, Villa S. Pietro, Pula and Nora), by all the Ecclesiastical Province (Diocese of Cagliari, Iglesias, Lanusei, Nuoro, Oristano, Ales-Terralba, Alghero-Bosa, Ozieri, Sassari, Tempio-Ampurias) and by thousands of believers from all over Sardinia.
Tens of thousands of people take part in the rites and their preparation. In particular, the confraternities, hundreds of cultural associations and groups make along the entire year, many preparatory activities to the Rite and the Feast.
Since 1652 the Municipality has always and continuously respected the Vow and today its role is still important. In fact, every year: the financial statements of the City of Cagliari includes resources for the dissolution of the Vow; the mayor appoints the Alter Nos and the event includes, along with the Municipality, the active participation of associations, groups and lovers of Sardinian tradition.