Friday, August 9, 2019

A "western" village in the heart of Sardinia: San Salvatore di Sinis

Me and Sardinia
By Roberta
May 27, 2019

One of the most fascinating places in Sardinia, is immersed in a surreal and timeless scenario. It is the small fishing village of San Salvatore, a few kilometers from Cabras, long used as a film set for Italian western films of the 1960s and 1970s and which each year carries on the centuries-old tradition of the "barefoot race".

The village and its history

The medieval village, whose current appearance dates back to the Spanish domination, owes its name to the church of San Salvatore, which was built in the 17th century, built on a prehistoric sanctuary carved into the rock. Around the church there are some rows of cumbessias, small stone houses made up of one / two floors that served as accommodation for pilgrims during the novena of San Salvatore, the most important village festival.

Between the sixties and seventies, with the advent of western cinema, the village served as a film set for numerous films, given its characteristic streets reminiscent of Mexican landscapes. The village was rented to film producers, becoming a village in Arizona or New Mexico in films such as the 1968 'Garter Colt'.

The posada of the San Salvatore film set

The church of San Salvatore and the ancient water cults

The church, preceded by a small porticoed area, is characterized by a series of hypogeum environments used and enlarged starting from the Nuragic era. Among these an ancient sacred well linked to the water cults and some rooms obtained during the 4th century AD, which show the signs of numerous cultural and religious stratifications. Among these are some Arabic inscriptions reciting verses from the Koran, combined with images of Mars and Venus, demonstrating how the area has been affected by various frequentations and different cultures, always remaining a point of reference for the place.

After the nuragic use, in the Punic period the area was dedicated to the god Sid, warrior and healer, and in the same wake the Romans installed the cult of Aesculapius there.

From the 4th century AD C. the hypogeum was transformed into an early Christian sanctuary in honor of the Savior. Some altars with a large nuragic basin, reused as a holy water font, are still present in two rooms.

Not far from the church are the remains of an ancient thermal complex, today called Domu ‘e Cubas, which dates back to the imperial age with a polychrome mosaic floor, and the traces of an ancient barn from the 2nd century BC

The barefoot race

In the nine days preceding the first Sunday of September the village comes alive and the celebrations in honor of Christ the Savior comes to life, culminating in the famous "barefoot race", one of the most evocative and heartfelt identity events in Sardinia.

The procession involves more than 800 participants in white outfits, which accompany the simulacrum of the saint from the church of Santa Maria Assunta di Cabras to the township barefoot on a long dirt road and bring it back to the parish the following day. The path, 7 km long, takes place entirely barefoot, to commemorate a legendary event and perpetuate the popular devotion to the Savior over time.

In 1619 a group of fishermen who lived in the village, surprised by the imminent Saracen invasion of the coast, ran barefoot to Cabras to save the precious simulacrum.

To tackle the long run, the fishermen tied branches to their bare feet, so as to raise as much dust as possible and look so much more numerous. The stratagem worked in full, as the Saracens, frightened at the idea of ​​being in front of a large army, withdrew. The village and the statue were saved. Since then, every year, in memory of the miraculous episode, to repeat the vow made to the saint, the ritual is repeated again. And with well-defined rules: there are 14 groups of curridoris, composed in turn of 14 "mute", each of five runners. Seven run on Saturday and seven on Sunday. Fate decides who brings the saint to the village of San Salvatore and who brings him back to Cabras.


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