Initially an exercise for military training, this ancient game of chivalry held in Arezzo dates back to the Middle Ages. Between the 16th century and the end of the 17th century, the tournament was regularly held becoming an important social function within the urban community. On and off, during the following centuries, the joust was definitely restored in 1931 as a form of historical re-enactment set in the 14th century.
Today the Joust takes place twice every year in Piazza Grande. The so-called San Donato Joust, dedicated to the town’s Patron Saint, is held by night on the second last Saturday of June, whereas the September Joust is held in the afternoon of the first Sunday of said-month.
The Joust involves the four quarters of Arezzo. The green and red team is the quarter of Porta Crucifera, aka Culcitrone, the yellow and crimson team is Porta del Foro, aka Porta San Lorentino, the white and green team is Porta Sant’Andrea and the yellow and blue team is Porta del Borgo, today called Porta Santo Spirito.
The historical re-enactment consists in a colourful pageant of 350 costume characters, knights, flag-wavers, drummers and trumpeters parading across Arezzo to reach the steps of the Cathedral where the Bishop of Arezzo blesses the men-at-arms.
The tournament itself is held in Piazza Grande and consists in eight jousters charging their horses against the Saracen, an armour-plated dummy, holding a cat-o’-nine-tails. The aim is to hit the Saracen’s shield without being hit off the horse by the replica’s whip. This takes ability, courage and a huge dose of good luck. The shield itself is divided into fields, each representing a different set of points. The joust is won by the couple of knights who obtain the highest score and the quarter to whom the couple is associated receives the much coveted golden lance. Obviously celebrations can go on days in the winning quarter.