Sites and events Necropolis S. Andrea Priu

Necropolis S. Andrea Priu

Necropolis S. Andrea Priu

Bonorva (SS)

The necropolis of Sant'Andrea Priu consists of a number of Domus de Janas, houses of the fairies. These are articifial caves for burials ranging from small spaces to manhigh complex tombs with a central room and lateral rooms. The most important tomb that can be visited contained also graves of roman times and roman frescoes and it was transformed in an early christian church in the byzantine period with byzantine style frescoes. Unfortunately it is not permitted to take pictures in this magnificent tombe.

Necropolis S. Andrea Priu

At a short distance of the village of Bonorva lies the prehistorical burial site of Sant'Andrea Priu. The burial site consist of a number of Copper Age and Bronze Age Domus de Janas cut out of the rockface of a hill. The largest and most complex of these graves has been reused in Roman times as a tomb and in medieval times has been transformed into an early christian and a byzantine church. It is this church that makes this necropolis so unique. Fortunately part of the necropolis was saved from the devastating use of explosives that caused the collapse of large part of the trachyte rockface. Of the original 180 meters extension of the necropolis only 50 meters are still intact and visitable and are now part of a managed archaeological site.

A number of smaller Domus de Janas are located on top of the hill. Of these Tomb XIII is the most intact and interesting to view. There is also a strange carved rock that is called belltower by the locals (campanile) but has also been interpreted as the body of a bull without a head by some archaeologists. For certain the rock has been cut by hand but for neither interpretation there is any evidence to support it. Maybe the rock was just cut to create another Domus de Janas. A shed next to it covers a 5 meters deep pit that ends in one of the gravechambers below. This was in medieval times covered by a small roof supported by four pillars.

Returning at the bottom of the rockface a number of larger graves can be seen, the leftmost closed by an iron gate, the Tomba del Capo that has been transformed into church. But first the large tomb next to that, tomb VIII which is cut out in the rock in the form of a rectangular room with the ceiling in relief that imitates a roof of a house and with a number of niches, loculus and adiacent cells. Originally this was a Domus de Janas of the Copper Age that has been extended in later times when also the particular ceiling was carved in the rock, much like that of the contemporary etruscan graves. In the late roman period a rectangular shaped hole was cut out in the floor that was covered by a large slab. The reconstruction of these changes have been confirmed by archaeologists based on the different techniques and tools that have been used to cut the rock and by comparing the measures of the rectangular grave to the roman foot (29.6 cm) and that of. the loculi (niches) to the byzantine foot (31,2 cm).

The Tomba del Capo  (source Caprara 1986: p 51)
The Tomba del Capo
(source Caprara 1986: p 51)

The largest grave, called the Tomba del Capo (the Tomb of the Chief), has been used in early christian times as a church and can only be visited with the guide, it is not permitted to take pictures inside. The original Domus de Janas consisted of a half round vestibule, a central chamber with two quadrangular pillars and around it a large number of smaller grave chambers with small entrances from the central chamber. In the late roman period with the rise of christianity the grave chambers that were located immediately behind the central chamber have been joined and enlarged into a third large chamber with two pillars and the entrance to the Domus de Janas has been enlarged as well to make a manhigh doorway. The vestibule, the narthex of the Byzantine church, still has centrally the prehistoric bowls in a circle, cut out in the floor. To the left two rectangular graves can be seen, cut out in medieval times. The second chamber was transformed into an aula, the pillars have been cut into round columns. The walls still bear part of the frescoes in two layers, an early christian (late roman) and a medieval (Byzantine) layer
The third chamber, the bema, that was intended only for the clergy, still has the frescoes on the walls and the ceiling. The latest frescoes would have been painted around 1303 when the church was reconsacrated according to written sources. To the right a niche has been cut out, corrisponding with the east side of the church, where an altar was placed. In the ceiling the opening, mentioned before, can be seen that lets in the light from above closed now by the shed.

To the left of the entrance to the church a byzantine grave has been cut in a large block of trachyte that probably was already separated from the rock face in prehistoric times, with a few steps cut out to reach it. Other graves are, as mentioned before, no longer visitable even though some are still visible.

Bibliography

Caprara, R. 1986, La necropoli di S.Andrea Priu, Sassari
Taramelli, A. 1919 (reprint 1978): Fortezze recinti fonti sacre e necropoli preromane nell'agro di Bonorva, Cagliari

Address: Bonorva in the countryside near the church of Santa Lucia

Tel: 3485642611

Opening times: daily summer 9:30 - sundown; winter 09:30-13:00 and 15:00-sundown; November and December by appointment

Prices: 3.50 euro (reduced 3.00 euro for groups 1.00 for minors.)

Website: not available

The information has been updated for 2016 but prices and opening hours may vary.

Last updated 28/08/2016

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