Knightly Tournament Sinjska Alka

The Alka Tournament 1715 – 2015

Sinjska alka is a unique knightly tournament held every year in August in Sinj, a small town that lies on the northwestern edge of the Sinj field in the Cetina river valley, at the foot of an old fortress in the Dalmatian hinterland about thirty kilometres from Split. The Alka has been held without interruption since the early 18th century, and is the only remnant of numerous chivalric contests once held in some major cities in Venetian Dalmatia. According to the Old Statute, participants in the Alka tournament must be residents of Sinj and the Cetina region, their parents must be from the same region, and they must have been born there.

The Alka tournament begins with a procession led by an arambaša (chieftain) and a selected troop of alkars with spears, who are in turn led by the Duke of the Alka and his adjutants, who hold their sabres drawn. They are followed by mace bearers and an armour bearer who carries the Turkish trophy shield, who are followed by grooms, the guides of an “edek” (a riderless horse) which carries the trophy harness, which according to legend belonged to Commander General Mehmed-Pasha Čelić, a Turkish duke from the time of the siege of Sinj in 1715. The troop of alkars ride on lavishly decorated horses, dressed in the original knightly uniforms of the early 18th century defenders of Sinj. In addition to spears, they are armed with firelocks and yataghan sabres. The other participants of this grand procession are dressed in beautiful traditional folk costumes from the Cetina region. Alkars wear a fur military headdress with a plume of heron feathers. They wear trousers and a dolman jacket made of the best quality deep blue baize, richly embroidered with silver braiding. A brocaded waistcoat and a white shirt are worn under the dolman, and they wear boots with spurs and decorative galloon trim. They are armed with a wooden spear with an iron point, and a sabre hangs at their left thigh. Only the spearmen take part in the Alka. The alkars, riding at full gallop, attempt to use a three-metre long spear to catch an iron ring (the alka) hanging from a rope hung across the racecourse, The winner is the one who collects the greatest number of points out of three races. The alka ring (from the Arabic balqa for ‘ring’) is made of wrought iron, consisting of two concentric rings with a joint centre. Measuring from their inner sides, the larger of the two rings is 131.7mm in diameter, while the smaller one is 35.1mm. The rings are interconnected with three bars, which divide the space between the two rings into three equal parts. A hit in the smallest, central ring (u sridu) carries three points, a hit in the upper part carries two points, and a hit in one of the two lower parts carries one point.

The winner of the Alka is richly rewarded, and the people of Sinj and the Cetina region praise him until the following Alka as their greatest knight and hero.

Alkarski Dvori

The Sinjska Alka Museum

The Sinjska alka Museum is located in Alkarski dvori, in the archaeological and historical complex of Kvartiri. This impressive area, which covers three thousand square meters, recreates the knightly game of alka with costumes and accessories, art objects, and documents that have accompanied the alka through its three-century long history. The museum’s holdings include interesting information about the monument complex of the Venetian military quarters (kvartiri) and archaeological findings. The museum exhibition skilfully combines physical and multimedia techniques of presenting museum themes. Visitors are particularly interested in the reconstruction, models, staging, computer animation, and musical scenery that display the customs and historical events related to the alka in an accurate and attractive manner. The museum space and conference hall in the excavated courtyard are the backbone of the complex, which connects the musem’s holdings from the entrance in the south to the duke’s quarters in the north. The two-storey space is especially dynamic, and climbing through the museum’s exhibitions offers visitors a different perspective – a three-dimensional experience. A life-size recreation of a part of the alka procession is one of the most interesting attractions. The battle of Sinj in 1715 has been reconstructed in a separate part of the museum where visitors can experience the famous battle in a multimedia environment. The roof of the museum and the halls represent the parterre, and were designed primarily as the starting point of the alka procession.

 INFO: The Alkar Society


Issue: 21 Destination: 0 Contact: