The Sinjska Alka

Taking place in Sinj, Croatia, for more than 300 years, the Sinjska Alka is a chivalric tournament when knights on horses gallop at full speed on the main street, while performing skills challenges such as throwing lances through an iron ring hanging on a rope. The name of the tournament derives from the word alka, or ring, a word of Turkish origin that reflects the historical co-existence and cultural exchange between two different civilizations.

The tournament rules, codified in a 1833 statute, intended to promote ethics and fair play, stress the importance of active participation in community life. In order to compete,  articipants must be members of local families of Sinj and the Cetinska krajina region. The whole community gathers together to help to make, preserve, restore and reconstruct weapons, clothing and accessories of the period to support the preservation and authenticity of this important tradition.

Alkars are very masculine men with large, square shoulders who grow moustaches as a symbol of their masculinity, and to connect with their great-grandfathers and historical heroes who defended their town in 1715. For the competition, the Alkar would hold his spear in his right hand, and while at full gallop, once he approaches the target, from about 20 meters away he will try to throw the spear through the alka. An alka spear is made of wood, about 290- 300cm long and 32.9mm in diameter, with a 20cm long iron point at the top.

The Sinjska Alka tournament is the only remaining example of the medieval knightly competitions that were held regularly in Croatian coastal towns until the 19th century, and has become a symbol of local history and a medium for transferring collective memory from one generation to another.

The Sinjska Alka tournament is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage List.

The town of Sinj is located in the northwestern edge of the Sinj field, in the Cetina river valley, in the Dalmatian hinterland, about 30 kilometres away from the sea. This area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, and during ancient times two important sites were in its vicinity, the Roman town Colonia Claudia Aequum, carrying the name of its founder emperor Claudius in its title. Sinj is well known as one of the greatest Marian sanctuaries in Croatia, where a celebration of the Feast of Assumption on 15 August has a special solemn significance.

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