Samugheo, Pivotal Town
Samugheo dominates the endless horizons and the countryside with its gorges and flourishing Mediterranean scrub, the like of which is rarely seen in Sardinia, forming a link between Campidano, which was colonised by thousands of conquerors, and the inviolable Barbagia. Samugheo’s historical function was to be the guardian of these confines, as can be seen from the Castello di Medusa, a fortress with Byzantine origins and the subject of many legends, and also from thenaming of its oldest church – now demolished – dedicated to St Michael, the warrior angel and guardian of the gates to Heaven.
It has long been thought that the name of Samugheo derived from the name of the Archangel Michael – San Migueu in Catalan – until numerous documents referring to the town and dating back to before the Catalan conquest emerged: accredited, in the early part of the 19th century, by the person writing up the Sardinian items for the monumental Geographic, Historic, Statistical and Commercial Dictionary of the States of His Majesty, King of Sardinia. This was a certain Vittorio Angius who, struck by the hard working inhabitants of Samugheo, noted no fewer than 360 looms (about one per family), which makes it easy to imagine how the town was full of their rhythmic beating sound as they produced textiles not just for domestic purposes but also for sale.
This industriousness has remained unchanged and Samugheo, in the same way as it guarded the doorway to Barbagia, continues to preserve the traditional flavour of Sardinian artisan textiles. It does this with discretion: the town no longer echoes with the sound of looms; production has evolved and become concentrated in the form of artisan workshops and small factories, taking weaving out of the family environment. Today, to capture the traces of the townspeople’s manufacturing vocation while strolling through the town, you need to pay some attention to detail and stop to take a look, for example, at the large-scale mural of a traditional carpet, or the discreet signs, fixed to modest two-storey buildings, among the red trachyte doorways and cornices that are a characteristic feature in the town. The fact that sober style is the aim can be seen in the peripheral location of the MURATS, the precious museum containing one of the world’s most important collections of Sardinian textile arts, from the 18th century to the present day. The museum is also looking to the future, as a catalyst for new ideas and workshop for innovative trends.
However, there is no need to be discouraged by so much reserve: attention to detail is what separates the traveller from the tourist! If you like pleasant surprises, you’ll be sure to love Samugheo … and this site aims to guide you on your journey.
Church of San Basilio
A country church dedicated to the patron saint of the town, Basil.
In the late 16th century, a serious plague hit Samugheo, killing a large number of its inhabitants. In desperation at the continuing epidemic, the people of Samugheo prayed to the saint, promising to build a church in his honour if the plague left the town.
In just a short time, the plague was gone and the promise was honoured.
Church of San Sebastiano
Parish church. This church is in Aragonese Gothic style, with some Romanesque elements, built between the 15th and 16th centuries.
Tradition says that the church was to have been built 300 metres more to the west, but that every morning the building materials left in the designated spot had been moved to where the church stands today. Believing that the Saint himself was the one moving the material and that it was his wish, the church was built on that spot.
Church of S.M. di Abbasassa
Country church dating back to 1480. This church was built over a
pagan temple dedicated to Cybele, the great Phrygian Mother of the Gods, a cult brought to the eastern colonies by the Romans. Temple remains were found during some of the renovation works carried out in the church in 1931
Church of San Michele
An unconfirmed tradition says that this church, now a ruin, was the first parish church in the town and that the name of the town itself comes from San Miguel or San Mucheu. With the building of the current parish church, this one was abandoned and left to fall into ruins.
Archaeology and Nature
It is well known that the area of Samugheo was inhabited in ancient times, and this can be seen from the numerous relics, artefacts and archaeological sites found in the surrounding territory, many of which date back to the Neolithic period.
There are numerous domus de janas [pre-nuragic chamber tombs] in the area.
One important archaeological site is the Castello Di Medusa, a castle dating back to the Byzantine period.
It was built over a sheer rocky gorge, surrounded by thick vegetation. The castle is entirely dug out of the marble. All that remains are the outer walls and two towers.
There are different legends surrounding the castle, including one about the ghost of Queen Medusa, who seems to wander through the ruins which safeguard the imaginary treasures.