Today was a bit like entering a magical and secret world … that of the Benedictine monks of the monastery of San Pietro di Sorres, adjacent to the church of the same name, which becomes (at least for me) part of the top 5 of the Sardinian churches for its beauty!
I arrive in this small village where the vice mayor Renzo welcomes me. After taking me to the municipal housing Santa Rughe (right next to the homonymous Oratory of Santa Croce) we get in the car to reach San Pietro di Sorres, just outside the village on a limestone plateau, where, as Renzo tells me, there are still old kilns for lime production. Under the limestones, in the Sa Rena Valley, there are sands that were extracted for production, and it seems that the name Sorres derives from the Byzantine which indicated this type of area. In addition there are also several domus de janas.
Once we get in the sunny square, I am amazed by the two-colored facade of the church, in the typical style of the area, white with Miocene limestones and with black volcanic rock tiny ornaments. I can’t wait to enter, but first we visit the adjacent Museum, where there are various archaeological finds, not only from the area but also from the monastery itself, plus various human skeletons found in tombs on site, and ancient religious statues. There are also several photos exhibited, depicting the famous medieval reconstruction of the battle between Doria and Aragonese, the Bastida di Sorres which takes place every August in this plateau, with about 150 extras.
We move to the monastery of the Benedictine monks, where Father Gianni, with a strong Tuscan accent, makes us visit the different rooms, the beautiful chapter house, also two-colored, which hosts a collection of paintings by Aligi Sassu. This is where important decisions were made and where the important Sorres Code was drawn up, a series of documents relating to what once was an important diocese and bishopric. We go out into the fascinating cloister, also beautiful because it is alive, with lots of greenery and a central well. Then we visit the medieval part of the monastery and its library, which contains about 70,000 volumes, some very rare and some kept in a safe! Here I can admire original twelfth-century Gregorian manuscript originals. At the exit of the library the panels illustrate the various stages of restoration of these ancient volumes. It is here, in fact, that Don Gregorio, 92 years old, is one of the few living expert restorers of these volumes.
Renzo leaves me and will come to pick me up in the afternoon. Before lunch, I visit the interior of the church, majestic, two-colored, a zebra-striped church, and here I witness the singing prayer of the monks. It seems that just below there is a tunnel that connects to Sa Rocca Ulari, a cave in the limestone ridge that overlooks the village. Finally we have lunch in the refectory, together with the monks and guests of the monastery. Here, in fact, rooms are set up for guests, who can book ‘monastic’ stays.
In the evening, after I have been driven back to the village, I can take a tour to admire some beautiful murals, among the narrow streets of the historic centre around the main street, where many houses still show beautiful stone details. I get to the parish church of Santa Maria Maddalena, and then to a beautiful fountain (strictly two-colored). Tonight, just opposite the town Hall, an evening was organised by the San Pietro di Sorres committee. A musical duo performs on stage, and like yesterday, here too they invite me to say a few things and play a tune. And then the big meal, where the mayor Silvano also joins us, and I meet Tiziana and Davide from Bonnanaro as meat roasters!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Although I am tempted to talk about the book “The infinite thread” by Paolo Rumiz, which tells of his journey through the Benedictine monasteries of Europe, to discover the roots of European civilization and what role the Benedictine Rule played in it, it seems to me more important to speak of a female figure who left a mark in this small village of the Meilogu: Ninetta Bartoli, born in 1896, first woman mayor in Italy.
Ninetta came from a noble family and had the opportunity to study in Sassari. Ninetta “hates the inequality between woman and man, is not particularly attracted to what are considered female tasks and does not accept being subjected to anyone. She doesn’t even want to get married. A fire burns in her chest, a fire that shines with strength and courage, independence and desire to change the world, common beliefs, and the future of women”(Federica Cabras, for Vistanet.it)
In 1946, Ninetta runs for mayor and gets 90% of the votes. A strong woman, respected and even feared. For the ten years of office she will change the fate of this village, making it a more modern and open place. She built public housing, primary schools and a kindergarten, the cemetery, a cooperative for the collection of milk and the production of cheese, a retirement home and much more. Among other things, she also restored the monastic complex of San Pietro di Sorres so that a community of Benedictine monks could settle here.
Ninetta died in Borutta in 1978, but still in her honor there is no street or square, but only a prize to remember her political action and determination.