About San Saturnino Basilica
San Saturnino Basilica (Basilica di San Saturnino) is one of Sardinia’s oldest churches. San Saturnino Basilica was definitely in existence by the sixth century AD and perhaps even as early as the fourth.
In fact, the namesake of San Saturnino Basilica is said to have been executed here during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian and may also be buried within the church.
Built in the shape of a cross, the current structure of San Saturnino Basilica was consecrated in the twelfth century and has a Roman necropolis, dating back to the early Christian era.
History of San Saturnino Basilica
The church was first mentioned in the early 6th century, and is the oldest paleo-Christian monument on the island of Sardinia.
It was likely erected near the burial place of its namesake, St. Saturninus of Cagliari, who was martyred in 304, and, as the oldest church in the capital, was built in the Byzantine-Proto-Romanic style between the 5th and 6th centuries.
In 1089 the Judicate of Cagliari, Constantine II of Cagliari, donated the complex, along with a monastery, to the Benedictines of the Abbey of St. Victor of Marseille. It was restored in a Provencal-Romanesque style, with the renewed basilica being consecrated in 1119.
During the siege of the quarter of Castello by the Aragonese, the monastery was damaged. In 1363, King Peter IV of Aragorn gave the site to the Knights of Sant Jordi d’Alfama. Following centuries saw the complex decay, until it was excavated in 1614 in search of relics of early Cagliari martyrs.
In 1669, some material from San Saturnino was used for its re-renovation into a Baroque style.
In 1714, the church was re-dedicated to the Saints Cosmas and Damian. In 1943, it was damaged by Allied bombings, but was then restored after World War II.
The church remained closed for more than 20 years, undergoing extensive restorations between 1978 and 1996. It was then re-consecrated in 2004.
Excavations on the site have unearthed both Roman and Byzantine burials.
San Saturnino Basilica Today
Today, visitors can enjoy the remains of a walled area, where excavations of the necropolis are still taking place.
Part of the original Greek-cross architectural design is still visible, with the semi-spherical dome-covered eastern arm containing a nave, two aisles, and a semicircular apse. It is a fascinating site to visit, with the evolution of architectural styles since it was first built upon in the 4th century visible for those with a keen eye.
Visitors can also make the most of the beautiful shoreline in the area.
Getting to San Saturnino Basilica
From the centre of Sardinia, San Saturnino Basilica is reachable in around 2 hours by car, via the E25 road.