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Basilica of San Saturnino


Dedicated to the patron saint, the Basilica of San Saturnino is the oldest church and one of the main symbols of the city of Cagliari. It is located in the area of the Christian necropolis and is considered as one the most important Paleo-Christian monuments of the Mediterranean Basin. Over the years the Basilica has undergone many changes, today visible in its articulated and multiform architecture and also evidence of the local historical, political and religious events.

The History

Located in the area of Villanova, the Basilica was built between the 4th and 6th c. A.D. It was first established as the burial place (“Martyrium”) of Saturnino, who was martyred in 304 in Cagliari during the prosecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian against the Christians. The first significant changes to the complex occurred in 1089, when the Basilica was donated to the Benedictinesof the  Abbey of St. Victor of Marseillewho restored the building in 1119.

The Basilica was seriously damaged in 1314 following the siege by the Aragonese and in 1363 King Peter IV donated the site to the Knights of Sant Jordi d’Alfama.

In the mid-15th c. the Basilica became property of the Archdiocese of Cagliari and from 1614 the area was excavated in search of relics of martyrs. Some materials were re-used for the subsequent restoration of the Cathedral.

In 1714 the Basilica was donated to the Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries and entitled to the Saints Cosma and Damiano.

Seriously damaged by the bombings of 1943, the building underwent important reconstruction and restoration works in the immediate post-war period and opened to the faithful in 2004. The surrounding area of the necropolis is still being excavated.

The Building

The only surviving parts of the original edifice, which had a Greek cross plan with a hemispherical dome at the crossing, include the main body and a section of the apse.

Following the acquisition of the Basilica by the Benedictines, works were executed by Provencal corporations and some Proto-Romance architectural characteristics can be recognized. The main vaulted body was preserved and the four arms restored, even if today only the eastern arm with its three navels and semi-spherical apse is intact. The central nave of the eastern arm has a barrel vault, whereas the aisles are cross-vaulted and decorated with blind arcades. The apse was built using clearly-visible limestone blocks from Bonaria.

Visitors enter the Basilica through a glass window supported by metallic additions created during the restoration works of 1978-1996 in order to close the arches of the destroyed aisles which were connected to the central vaulted body.


Piazza San Cosimo, Cagliari
09100 Cagliari