Alka Of Sinj Museum

Tomislav Barhanovic

Curator, Sinjska alka Museum

Alka Of Sinj Museum

Put Petrovca 12 21230 Sinj Croatia

EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2018


A Living Witness To History




The Museum of  Alka of Sinj is one of the most state-of-the-art museums in Croatia. Its permanent exhibition meets the highest museum standards, both when it comes to presentation and technology, and offers a variety of interactive content that stimulates all of the senses of its visitors. Though the museum is dedicated to heritage, its approach is unquestionably modern, presenting the uniforms, equipment and weapons of alkars through multimedia installations, films and other new media. The story that the Museum of Alka of Sinj tells with its archival materials represents an indispensable part of the history of Sinj and the Cetina region, one that is deeply embedded into the collective memory of all Croatians.


The Alka Of Sinj

What is Alka? Alka of Sinj is a knight's tournament in which a rider on horseback has to pass the Alka's racecourse length of 160 m in full gallop within 13 seconds, and aim their spear at the doubled ring called an alka. According to Statute, a maximum of 17 alkars (the spearmen) can participate in Alka competition; the winner is the one who wins the most points in three races. Alka of Sinj commemorates a victory of the people of Cetina region over the numerous Ottoman army in 1715, in honour of the heavenly patroness the Madonna of Sinj, who, according to tradition, helped in the victory. Alka tournament starts with a procession in which more than 100 people and 27 horses participate. The procession starts from Alka halls, also the location of the Museum, to the Alka Racecourse, where the tournament is held. Alka's participants wear solemn uniforms and equipment.
Alka of Sinj is maintained by strictly defined written rules. The Alkars, or spearmen, need to be flawless residents born in the Cetina region. It takes lots of effort, renunciation and love to become an Alkar . Love for Alka and horses begins in youth, so it is no surprise that all boys in Sinj want to be Alkars. Even present Alkars were just boys who were learning how to ride horses and helped older Alkars care for the horses.

The core activity of the Alka Knights Society is maintenance of the knights' tournament.
Being a member of the Alka of Sinj is a true honour. Actually, the whole local community indirectly participates in the maintenance of Alka. Alka is integrated into the life of the whole Cetina region. Its residents are very proud of their tradition, which they have carried on with love.

In 2010, the Knights Tournament of the Alka of Sinj was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.


The Museum of Alka of Sinj

The Museum of Alka of Sinj is dedicated to the knights' tournament 'Alka of Sinj', which is held every year in the town of Sinj in August. It demonstrates the game (knight's tournament), rich clothes (or uniforms), weapons and equipment worn by participants of the Alka procession . The Museum was opened in 2015, precisely on (or behalf on) the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Alka of Sinj.

The creation of the Museum was initiated by Board members of the Alka Knights Society. The Board, like the whole Society, consists of volunteers who take care and actively participate in the Society's work. Their cooperation and enthusiasm were a significant help, especially with valuable suggestions about the concept and the realisation of the Museum. It is necessary to point out the participation of the Alkars themselves in the conceptualization and realization of the Museum, particularly in movie shootings for the Museum exhibition display. One of the most complicated things was the development of a movie demonstrating the Alkar in full gallop, because it required 1000 people from the local community to participate. The leader of the Alkars organized the replication of the Alka tournament with the participation of almost a whole Alka procession. The local community was always ready to cooperate and unselfishly helped in every activity. Members of the Alka procession also dedicated time to the realization of exhibition display. The Museum of the Alka of Sinj would not be this valuable without them.


The true value of the Museum lies in its strong supporting role to the Alka. The Alka competition is held only once a year, but now ( thanks to the Museum) visitors have an opportunity to have a closer look at everything about Alka and its meaning throughout the whole year, and to understand things which it is not possible to perceive at a racetrack. The Museum provides detailed information about elements of the tournament, its peculiarities, rules and history.

The permanent exhibition display is equipped with most modern forms of museum presentation and interactive content which provides more prudent knowledge and multilayer presentation. The exhibition display consists of several units: a reduced Alka procession (or parade); typical (or representative) participants of the Alka tournament, including presentation of their uniforms and equipment; the Alkar spearman performing in the race (or alkar the spearman at gallop), battle history and tournament winners. There is a selection menu on a big screen where visitors can choose a year and see the short movie about that year's winner. The proportions and location of the screen provide impression of real attendance at the racetrack.

Very important parts of the Museum are the Alka procession and the Alkar spearman at gallop, static figures complemented with movie projection and authentic sounds giving a full impression of the atmosphere at the racetrack. A no less important segment of the Museum is the  intangible heritage preserved by the annual maintenance of the Alka tournament. Multimedia content is updated every year and we are free to say it is a way of keeping and archiving the whole manifestation of Alka .
The visitor has the opportunity to learn the names and purpose of clothes (or uniforms), equipment and weapons, and every unit is accompanied (or completed) by films. Interesting presentation and interactive elements provide every visitor with the opportunity to browse all kinds of content such as a rich digital archive located in the gallery. From this point in the Museum, visitors are able to have a bird's eye view on the Alka procession. We are free to say that after four years of existence, the Museum is well accepted, visited and loved by the local community, but also recognised as an important guardian of its own identity.


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