Staring Upwards in Cagliari’s St Saturnino

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Basilica of San Saturnino, Basilica di San Saturnino, Cagliari, Sardinia

Located in a bit of a park, the dinky church of St Saturnino is the oldest that still stands in Cagliari.  Sadly, there’s not much to it anymore, but since the poor building has had quite a battering over the centuries, it’s not surprising.

The church is dedicated to the probably mythical (certainly conflated) St Saturninus, a local martyr who is said to have refused to worship Jupiter in 304AD.  The present church is only part of the original basilica and consists of a dome, dating to the 5th/6th century, and a short nave.  It was built in the area of a Roman/early Christian necropolis, as is evidenced in the garden outside, which has a number of funerary stele.

In 1119, the basilica, which had been restored, reopened as part of a Benedictine monastery.  It was badly damaged during the siege of Cagliari in 1324 and fell into further decay over the following centuries.  In 1614, the area was pillaged during enthusiastic searches for Cagliari’s early martyrs, and further damage was done when material was taken from the site to help renovate the Cathedral.

I’m guessing this is when the church became its present size, but I’ve not been able to find out if that’s right.  It was presumably fixed up to some extent because it was rededicated, this time to Saints Cosmas and Damian, in 1714.  However, it was badly damaged during Allied bombing in 1943 and despite immediate post-war restorations, the church was closed between 1978-1996 while it was thoroughly overhauled.  It was reconsecrated in 2004.

The inside of the church is absolutely plain.  This really makes you focus on the use of brick and the different types of stone and marble used in construction.

So In Summary

While there isn’t much to look at in the church, it is a pleasant little building with some beautiful features.  The dome, for me, was the highlight – because that’s the kind of girl I am.  It’s just so neat.  I admit that you could be in and out in a few minutes, and it’ll probably take you longer to get there than to look round, but if you have a thing for early Christian structures than do pop along and have a gawp.

Further Information

Entry into the church is free, but be aware that there may be services on.

How To Get There

The church is not located in the old town of Cagliari where the majority of other sites are, but it is walkable.

The transport website for Cagliari is not very user-friendly for the non-Italian speaker.  So, here’s the city’s official transport website: – with some English information on Cagliari buses generally.  Here is a pdf of the bus map.  Now you’ve worked out what route you want to take, pop over here for a list of the bus numbers, so you can see the schedule of your bus.

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