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Over the centuries devotion of the Three Martyrs has become associated with various traditions: the atmospheric night time pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Gavinus; the Pentecost procession on the seafront at the Asinara Gulf, from Balai to Mount Agellu, with the sacred image of the Martyrs; the blessing at the sea front and the exchange of keys between the city authorities and the curia the following Monday.
The pilgrimage of the Three Martyrs takes place the night between the Saturday and Sunday of Pentecost. The pilgrims leave from Sassari and the surrounding villages at midnight and arrive at the Basilica of St Gavinus at about 03:00 then wait until 04:00 when there’s the special Mass. Nowadays the route winds its way along the main road (SS131) whilst in the past it used to follow the last part of the Karalibus Turrem Roman road, which connected Turris Libisonis to Karales (now Cagliari). The last stop was the Balai Vicino Church, first resting place of Gavinus, Protus and Januarius. Even today, after the Pilgrim’s Mass, many believers gather in the crypt to pray near the wooden images of the three saints. The 17th century statues are kept in the tombs of Balai Vicino from 3 May to the evening of Pentecost, when they are brought back to the Basilica, in a solemn procession, along the sea front and city centre.
As well as the religious celebrations, there are many traditional ones too. The Pentecost procession is opened by groups of traditional dancers during Lu patiu di Santu Bainzu in festha, the seafaring tradition takes centre stage at the Fishermen’s Regatta and in the rowing race, fine food and sea delicacies are the highlight of the Fish Festival and the links with equestrian culture come alive with the Palio of Santu Bainzu (Saint Gavinus, in Sardinian), during which they pay homage to Gavinus, Roman soldier and patron saint of the city, with events like a sort of jousting competition in traditional dress with competitors racing to spear the ring.
Sa Festha Manna is also host to musical, cultural and handicraft displays, not to mention the typical market in corso Vittorio Emanuele II and via Indipendenza.
Sa Festha Manna 2016 will be held from 14 to 16 May whilst the Palio of Santu Bainzu, the celebrations’ grand finale, is scheduled on the following weekend.