Discovering the Bosco di San Francesco22 May 2019
The Giochi De Le Porte (Games of the Gates) is a historic re-enactment that takes place in Gualdo Tadino during the last weekend of September each year. During the three days of the event, the town conjures up a medieval atmosphere and the streets are tinged with the colours of the four gates: San Benedetto, San Donato, San Facondino and San Martino, which compete for the prize and the privilege of burning the ‘ the effigy of the Bastola, the “witch”, an ancient enemy of Gualdo, who is blamed for the terrible fire that destroyed the city. 4 gates compete for the prize:
- San Donato Gate: named after the ancient abbey existing since the 10th century along the river Feo. It is black (field) and yellow (tower).
- San Facondino Gate: its name comes from the church erected around the 10th century in honour of one of the first bishops of Tadino. It is yellow (tower) and green (field).
- San Benedetto Gate: it is the most populous Gate, and includes in its territory the most extensive part of the city with the castles of Caprara, Torre dei Belli, Crocicchio, San Pellegrino, Piagge, Poggio Sant’Ercolano, Pieve di Compresseto and Badia. It is yellow (tower) and blue (field).
- San Martino Gate: It owes its name to the ancient Church of San Martino in the foothills area halfway between Gualdo and Rigali. It is yellow (tower) and red (field).
The three days of the festival are organised as follows:
- Friday: opening day of the event. It begins with the reading of the “proclamation” beginning the Games of the Gates and dedicated to the opening of the four taverns. A colourful procession of sutlers brings the piazza to life and accompanies the taverns that host the exchanging of gifts, a symbolic gesture of brotherhood between the four Gates. Finally there is the performance of the drummers of the four Gates and the flag-waving group.
- Saturday: begins with the trials in the Piazza for the slingers and archers, at the end of which the Waldum Crossbowmen perform in a shooting competition that will establish who will have the honour of guarding and carrying the Prize in the procession. In the late afternoon, the group of “Little Ensigns” performs. This day is dedicated to launching the challenge between the four Gates, as well as the "great procession". Along the main street of Gualdo Tadino the four gates perform a procession with figures, carts and animals.
- Sunday: the day of the tournament. It starts in the morning with weighing the carts and drawing the order of the race. At 2:00 pm the processions enter the main arena, where the participants and spectators eagerly await the start of the contests that will bring victory for one of the four Gates, which will have the honour of lighting the fire that will burn the Bastola, sworn enemy of the city.
The Prize of St Michael the Archangel
There are four contests between the Gates:
- CART RACE: The race is carried out individually by each gate, based on the order drawn on Sunday morning. The gate with the quickest time wins the race. The route is 800 metres long and runs anti-clockwise. The team for each gate is formed of the cart, pulled by the donkey, and the braker. The cart is weighed and checked on Sunday morning, when the names of the donkeys and jugglers (main and reserve) the door will deploy in the afternoon are also delivered.
- SLING SHOT: The slingshot contest is done by the chosen slingers from their own gates on Sunday morning. Accompanied by another juggler on the shooting stage in the main piazza, each slinger has five shots to hit the highest number of targets in a maximum of four minutes. The target consists of a ceramic plate depicting the heart of the witch with a diameter of 30 cm, and is placed 20 metres away from the shooting stage.
- ARCHERY: The archer who climbs on the shooting stage, placed 25 metres from the target, has 5 arrows to try to get the best score by hitting the target as close to the centre as possible. The target consists of 10 concentric rings, with a score of 1 to 10 the closer they get to the centre.
BAREBACK RIDING: Definitely the most exciting race of the games. First of all, it is the race that generally assigns the Prize to the gates still in the race based on their scores from the previous contests. And it is probably the most spectacular, with the four jockeys engaged in a simultaneous race riding bareback on the donkeys, in a clockwise direction. The score is assigned based on the order they finish.
For each contest’s winner 12 points are awarded, 9 points for second place, 6 for third and 3 for last place.
In the event of equal scores in the sling shot and archery contests, play-offs to the bitter end determine the final ranking. In the event of a tie in the final total score, a bareback donkey riding play-off takes place between the gates involved.
The Games of the Gates are followed by many people, and are intensely enjoyed by tourists on holiday in the Umbrian town.