In Barbagia, an area of extraordinary beauty, once inaccessible and now a land of genuine hospitality, every year at the end of August, tens of thousands of people take part in an important event for the island: the Redentore Festival in Nuoro. Born as a tribute to the statue that has overlooked the town from Mount Ortobene since 1901, over the years the festival has also (increasingly) acquired a folkloristic note. Today it has a twin soul: two different moments, one dedicated to religious celebration and the other to a spectacular parade of people dressed in traditional outfits from all over the island. The festival encapsulates the many facets of Barbagia, a region where ancient places and traditions are preserved untouched, and still today loves to talk about itself, as have many great writers.
The Redentore is a celebration of folklore with roots in deep-held faith. For Nuoro it has been a solemn religious event and a celebration that has been intimately felt by its population for 117 years. On August 29th, the faithful gather in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Neve. Gosos are sung, religious chants in the local language. From here a long pilgrimage of 13 stations starts, about six kilometres on foot to the summit of the mythical Ortobene, described by Grazia Deledda, who has given it eternal fame in her novels, as “our soul”. A religious procession with colourful carts with festive decorations pulled by massive oxen. The most intense part is the celebration of high mass accompanied by a procession and chants. The night before the pilgrimage, a torchlight procession with prayers makes its way round the churches of the historic centre.
On the summit of Ortobene, the laying and blessing of the statue and the consecration of the mountain are remembered. Homage to the statue began with the jubilee of 1900, when pope Leo XIII called for 19 monuments to Christ the Redeemer to be placed on the top of 19 Italian summits. The majestic statue, seven metres high and weighing 1,800 kg, entirely made of bronze by the sculptor Vincenzo Ierace, was raised on the top of the mountain on August 29th of the following year, in parts thanks to the generosity and religious spirit of the Sardinians who clubbed together to collect the funding to make the likeness. Several famous people took part in the campaign, including Nobel prize winner Grazia Deledda. This is another reason why the celebration is so deeply rooted in central Sardinia culture.
In an inimitable mix, the religious festival is associated with the regional festival of popular traditions a few days earlier, a triumph of music, colours, elegance and dazzling jewels that delights thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. Three thousand re-enactors in traditional outfits, two hundred horse riders and ancient carnival costumes (from Mamuthones and Issohadores by Mamoiada to Boes and Merdules by Ottana) parade for four hours of wonderful spectacle. With the Feast of Sant'Efisio in Cagliari and the Sardinian Cavalcade of Sassari, it is part of a triptych of genuine traditions of the island. The “classic” wearing of traditional clothes and the masks of the ancient carnival are the opening salvo, the majestic parade is the pinnacle. The outfits, worn by dance groups, present choreographies, twirl elegantly showing off the splendour of the styles, while the sound of launeddas and accordions, and the tunes of the canti a tenore fill the squares and streets.