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.