The main figures of the Descent of the Candelieri are the obrieri (those responsible for carrying the standard), bearers, guardian Father, and then the eleven gremi, the mayor, the mace bearers and many others. The Descent of the Candelieri is a very engaging celebration and its protagonists perform clearly defined roles. The people who attend the parade, whether citizens of Sassari or tourists, are not just onlookers; they are really moved by the passion generated by an event that goes back many centuries.
The descendants of the ancient guilds of Sardinian arts and trades are called gremi. The gremi participating in the Sassari’s Descent of the Candelieri are currently eleven. During the procession on August 14th they parade with their wooden candlesticks which bear the typical symbols of each individual trade. Each gremio has a patron saint and a chapel where the religious rites are celebrated. The word comes from the Spanish gremios.
This word comes from the Spanish: “obrero”, literally ‘worker’, and indicates a person with a prominent role in the gremio. In particular, the obriere maggiore is the person who carries the banner of the gremio throughout the Descent of the Candelieri. The obriere di candeliere is the member of the gremio who is responsible for the votive candlestick. They are both elected on the patronal feast day.
They handle the weight of the candlestick. The wooden candlestick can reach a weight of 400 kg and is more than 3 meters tall: it takes eight people to carry it all along the route of the Descent. It is their duty to make it “dance” through a specific series of moves.
The civil authorities wait for the passage of the Faradda at the Teatro Civico, formerly the seat of the Palazzo di Città (Town Hall). The mayor welcomes the gremio of the massai for the investiture of the new obriere maggiore and for the traditional “A zent’anni” toast. The rite calls for the gremio’s flag to be exchanged for the Municipality’s banner: this is the Intregu rite, during which the mayor is encouraged to join the procession along with the council and the town councilors.
The Mace Bearers
Sent by the Municipality, they act as escorts for the city authorities during the different steps of the Descent of the Candelieri. Their name comes from the weapons they walk with: the original silver sticks are kept in the Museo della Città.
The Guardian Father
He’s the figure who welcomes the gremi and the authorities when they enter the Santa Maria of Betlem Church. The guardian father of the Santa Maria convent, which has hosted Minor Friars since 1274, joins the archibishop for the prayer of blessing which renews the ancient vow to the Assunta every year.
Even Sassari’s archibishop, a leading authority in the curia, takes part in the final step of the Descent of the Candelieri. Accompanied by the guardian father, the archibishop takes his place in the lateral San Giovanni chapel inside Santa Maria of Betlem Church. He leads the prayer to the Assunta to renew the vow and then ends with the “A zent’anni!” traditional wish.
The Faradda de li Candareri attracts 100,000 people to Sassari every year. Residents and tourists make up an enthusiastic crowd which follows the different stages of the Descent. It’s not only an expression of folklore, but above all a religious celebration that the inhabitants of Sassari attend devotedly.