The tournament Giostra dell’Orso, or Joust of the Bear, takes place in the heart of Pistoia, in Piazza del Duomo, every July 25, on the feast day for the patron saint of the city, St. James.
The Joust is an exciting horse contest between the historical districts of Pistoia. The Giostra dell’Orso has distant origins, even if the name officially just goes back to 1947. Already in 1200, according to documents still preserved today, knights and noblemen from various parts of Italy challenged each other to win the tournament’s prize, called palio. The palio is often a cloth banner, not exactly precious in itself but for the prestige of winning it.
Since 1947, the Joust has been held in Piazza del Duomo which gets transformed into an oval shaped horse race track for the occasion, surrounded by bleachers for spectators.
The actual tournament is held in the evening, at 9:30pm, in Piazza del Duomo, but the celebrations pretty much take place throughout the day.
The four historical districts, called “rione”, compete in the Joust. They can be recognized by their coat of arms and colors: Cervo Bianco (white and green colors), Drago (red and green) , Leon d’Oro (yellow and red) and Grifone (red and white).
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