Cultural and historical resources

The SCI (Site of Community Importance) of “Giara di Gesturi” is part of a homogeneous region characterized by the presence of several scattered villages that were established centuries ago and have grown since then due to the vocation of cereal farming. In many cases, these villages have been affected by a particularly acute depopulation phenomena (This area has a concentration of Sardinian villages with the least number of inhabitants.) caused by the economic difficulties that the Sardinian agricultural sector has faced with the rise of modernity. Yet, these towns can be considered wealthy if we take into account their historical and artistic heritage. Sacred buildings, dating back to various periods, emerge along the narrow streets of these rural towns, next to important civic buildings linked to the history of the region and the rural culture that, over the centuries, have modified the landscape.

The Asquer House in Tuili, the Lavra House in Genoni and the birthplace of the Blessed Nicholas in Gesturi, are examples of traditional rural housing, and their diversity reflects the social hierarchies that once divided the society and the constant need to unite work spaces and domestic areas. The style is more or less the same: a house with a courtyard that is typical of this region and its surroundings. The variations among the houses are mostly related to the size, as they were, like today, directly proportional to the economic possibilities of the owners.

Regarding the sacred architecture, this part of Sardinia has many austere churches in Romanesque style, whereas others have the features of Gothic style. The furniture and art found inside the churches are often of great value, and it is worth mentioning the imposing altarpiece by the Master of Castelsardo, located in the parish church of San Pietro in Tuili. This is a masterpiece of Sardinian Renaissance art and was declared a National Monument in 1893.

There are not many works of art comparable to this altarpiece, but there are many buildings capable of reminding one of the history of this region, the spirituality of those who lived there, their relationship with the environment, and their ability to take advantage of their possibilities, with effort and ingenuity.

Each village forged the urban structure that would be preserved for centuries, developing around the spiritual center of its own church and extending to neighboring villages, tied to the common commitment of cultivating the land. Perhaps it is this tendency that explains the presence of rural churches (which date back to various eras) between towns, which today are ideal scenarios for organizing festivals and religious celebrations.

These simple and austere constructions are modest-sized and often located near or on the remains of sacred buildings that had been left by earlier civilizations. A particular feature of these small temples is that, due to their isolated locations, they seem to have guarded the wheat and the land that produced it in order to guarantee the survival of the towns of the Giara over the centuries.

 

The rural church of San Domino, founded in the sixteenth century, is located in the north of the village near the parish church of Genuri.

In 1641, following the decree issued by the bishop, the building underwent extensive rearrangements, which led to the reduction of its size. Today, the church features a stone structure with a wooden gabled roof covered with tiles. On the left side, there are quadrangular buttresses that are used for structural reinforcement.

The main façade is simple. It has a single entrance and a bell-gable, which can be reached by taking a flight of stairs built on the right side of the church. One of the two bells in the tower dates back to 1408, and you can see a barely-legible inscription on it, which seems to refer to the words of God during the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”.

The Church of San Giorgio the Martyr, located on the outskirts of the village of Sini, displays a prominent portico that is framed in stone and supported by brick arches. The building also has large side buttresses and a great portal with an architrave. The bell tower has a bell-gable with two arches made of brick.

The church also plays a part in a local legend from the seventeenth century, which says that some farmers from Sini, while working the land in the nearby village of Ollasta (now called Albagiara), found a small sarcophagus with a sculpture inside. It represented a young warrior, who had a spear in one hand and a cross on his chest, slaying a dragon. It was undoubtedly San Giorgio. The statue  was  the  cause  of  a  conflict among  the  inhabitants  of  Sini,  Ollasta, and Baressa. The owner of the land in which the discovery had been made was from Baressa.

With the help of the bishop, the dispute was resolved in a very original way. The saint would be placed on an ox-wagon, and a church would be built in honor of the saint wherever the oxen stopped. After  a few  hours,  the  animals  came to a halt at the top of a hill in Sini  and  did not move until the sculpture of the saint was removed from the cart. At that place, the temple in honor of San Giorgio was built.  The sculpture disappeared in 1922 when the parish priest at the time sold it to an antique dealer, who thought it was a useless object. 

The parish church of San Leonardo Confessore is the result of master builder Emanuele Sitzia’s radical reconstruction of an existing building, which began in the second half of the 1800s and finished in 1872.

A stone stairway connected Via Chiesa to the main square in the town and was placed on a raised floor so that it would be possible to see the façade of the temple. It is characterized by a large entryway, which is defined by a stone frame with a large rectangular window on top. Behind the façade, on the right, there is a bell tower which has two semi-circular arches. On the left side of the façade, there is another part of the same structure, which was built more recently and features a flat roof and several windows. Those windows were framed in stone in order to create a contrast between this material and the plaster walls. The church interior has a single nave with a barrel vault, two side chapels and some works of art that tell the history of the temple. The most notable features are the nineteenth-century wooden pulpit, some wooden statues from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and a marble baptismal font made by Battista Spazzi in 1788. During its last restoration in 1975, the interior floor was renovated using a hard, gray volcanic stone called trachyte.

 

Dating back to the fifteenth century, the rural church of San Marco is the second oldest church in Genuri. Its renovation, however, took place in 1743. This modest-sized building, with just one room and one niche, is located near the nuragic settlement of the same name on the east side of the town center.

On the soberly-decorated façade, there is a large doorway surmounted by an arch and a bell-gable.  The side walls of the building are made of stone, and a secondary entrance is located on the right side, connecting the exterior of the church to the niche. The gable roof is covered with tiles, and the floor was made by juxtaposing the polychromatic stones. The chancel, which is slightly raised, houses a simple wooden altar.

The construction of the parish church of San Pietro the Apostle dates back to the late fifteenth century, as evidenced by an old inscription on the façade, which is now illegible, and the date of the consecration of the church in 1488.

The type of construction used to build this temple is similar to the one used in Sardinia during the Aragonese domination.The  structure  has been  enlarged  and rebuilt numerous times over the last few centuries.  The main building, flanked by a bell tower, has a single rectangular nave and six lateral niches. In the high chancel, surrounded by a balustrade, there is a Baroque-style monumental altar, decorated with polychrome incrustations. The central niche houses a statue of Saint Peter. Above the main entrance, the gallery hosts a 19th century organ. In the first niche on the right, there is a famous altarpiece, dedicated to Madonna del Carmine, which was made in the late sixteenth century by the master builder of Castelsardo on behalf of the former parish. While the central compartments of the altarpiece show the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus and the crucifixion, the lateral compartments present the archangel Michele, San Giacomo, San Pietro, and San Paolo.

Moreover, some important episodes from the life of San Pietro are described in the lower compartments, as the resurrected Christ and the popes San Clemente and San Gregorio are represented in the Tabernacle. The evangelists and various saints were also painted around the edges of this work of art.