Villages of the spirit!

YiS Team: Annalisa Bucci


Tuesday, July 18th, 2023


Villages of the spirit!

Leave behind the colours, scents and sounds of the sea and immerse yourself in seven evocative places linked to saints and the blessed: these are Sardinia’s pilgrimage destinations, oases of hospitality, silence and meditation.

An invitation to recollection and contemplation in ideal places for physical and mental regeneration, places where hospitality is considered sacred. Seven ‘devoted’ places that exude a deep sense of spirituality, steeped in religious devotion, where important spiritual figures were born and lived. Each has its own naturalistic and cultural-historical peculiarities, a destination for travellers who are well aware that they are living intimate experiences that will leave a mark. Each village offers different emotions but with common denominators: enchanting landscapes, age-old traditions, artistic masterpieces, archaeological monuments, excellent craftsmanship and typical dishes.

1. Luogosanto

The name itself is evocative. Luogosanto, which can be translated as ‘Holy Place’, founded by the Franciscan fathers, is a centre of devotion par excellence. It is a village perched on the granite reliefs of deepest Gallura, where you can breathe fraternal spirituality, famous for the prestige of the holy door, a recognition awarded by the Vatican to its monumental and austere basilica, inside which is kept the stature of the Queen of Gallura. Around the town, surrounded by Mediterranean greenery, there are 22 charming places of contemplation, small rural churches or hermitages carved out of granite: the oldest and most visited is the Hermitage of San Trano, an ideal place to find oneself.

2. Galtellì

Stone houses, cobbled streets, five churches in a square kilometre, a park dedicated to Grazia Deledda, and an extraordinarily devout community. Galtellì is an original village of the Baronìa, once the seat of the diocese, and a place of pilgrimage for the Holy Crucifix, kept in the church of Santa Croce, to which miracles dating back to 1611 are attributed. Processions and rituals are celebrated in its honour, accompanied by sos gozzos, ancient liturgical songs. Inside the cemetery is the former Cathedral of San Pietro, which houses a series of 13th-century frescoes depicting events from the Old and New Testaments. The village is watched over from on high by Tuttavista, with a statue of Christ standing on top, which is also a destination for the faithful on a picturesque walk up the mountainside.

3. Dorgali

This is one of the most famous tourist resorts in the Nuoro area and the whole of Sardinia. Natural beauty and archaeological heritage make Dorgali a popular tourist destination. Not only that, but the town is also a renowned cultural centre, closely linked to the traditions of the farming civilisation of the past and to sacred celebrations and rites, as well as the birthplace of the Blessed Sister Maria Gabriella Sagheddu. The ‘sister’ is a reference figure of Catholicism as an international ecumenical icon and promoter of interreligious dialogue. Devotion to the blessed woman coexists magically in an area full of cultural and natural attractions, especially around the seaside village of Cala Gonone: from the Bue marino caves to Cala Luna.

4. Orgosolo

From the coast of Cala Gonone to the heart of Nuoro’s Barbargia, visitors can discover an unusual village steeped in history, culture and spirituality. This is Orgosolo, the village of murals, also characterised by breathtaking natural beauty spots, such as the su Gorropu canyon or the su Suercone gorge. It was here that the young martyr, Antonia Mesina, was born in 1919. At the age of 16, she defended her chastity until death. Her remains are kept in the parish church, dedicated to the Holy Saviour. From the crypt, the tomb of the blessed woman reminds the faithful of her stubborn resistance to the wickedness of man, while the frescoed walls of the village houses exude powerful universal messages of peace, brotherhood and the fight against social injustice.

5. Laconi

A charming village in the Sarcidano area, surrounded by greenery and prehistoric remains. An Orange Flag eco-tourism award holder since 2005, Laconi has always been a place linked to the Franciscan fathers. Its original fame goes back to St Ignatius, an important figure in the Sardinian Church and the first island saint (18th century). Devotion to him attracts thousands of pilgrims here every year. A ten-stage journey of faith winds through the narrow streets, including the house where the saint was born. It is a path of spiritual regeneration, thanks to the messages of simplicity of the saint, who followed the Franciscan rule in all respects. The classic image is of a humble friar, hunched over, absorbed in prayer, who would not refuse help to anyone. The visit continues in the Menhir museum and the beautiful Aymerich park, where the remains of an ancient castle are located.

6. Gesturi

From Sarcidano to Marmilla: this is Gesturi, a place of meditation where the blessed Brother Nicola was born, around whom an aura of ‘prodigious’ veneration persists. A humble questor who lived between 1882 and 1958, he was blessed in 1999 by John Paul II. He is still much loved by the faithful, who recognise his goodness and miraculous abilities. From his modest house, a route begins along narrow streets and Campidanese houses, ancient churches and rural sanctuaries. The backdrop to the call to meditation is the oasis of the Giara (sa Jara manna): a plateau frozen in time, a ‘natural museum’ full of botanical species and characteristic fauna, where man has left abundant traces, including the ‘father of all nuraghi’, Bruncu Madugui.

7. Sant’Antioco

A charming seaside village. Sant’Antioco is now a popular tourist resort, but its history goes back thousands of years and is steeped in pathos and devotion. Originally it was Sulki, a thriving colony that was first Punic, then Roman. Here, at the dawn of Christianity, lived and preached the Mauritanian exile Antiochus, who lived between the end of the 1st and the beginning of the 2nd century, persecuted and martyred by the Emperor Hadrian because he professed the new faith. The site of his martyrdom became the destination of the first pilgrims, many of whom wanted to be buried around his tomb. The catacomb cemetery is now the ‘heart’ of the basilica of Sant’Antioco, cathedral of the diocese of Sulcis from the 5th century to the beginning of the 13th century. The island’s patron saint has been celebrated since 1360: it is the oldest festival on the island, perhaps in Europe.

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