The City of Sassari
is positioned at 225 metres in height, on an inclined weak
lime table towards the Golf of Asinara (Porto Torres).
The old Town Centre Plan, with narrow and tortuous streets,
once upon a time closed in within the boundaries of the walls
the Aragon’s had built, is now in most part destroyed
and surrounded in present times instead by modern districts
with roads plans resembling a chessboard and rectilinear streets.
The village (Tathari, its origins still uncertain) was of
little importance for the whole of the high medieval period.
During the 12th and 13th centuries however, it gained importance
due to the immigration of the river populations who were chased
away by the Saracen raids. Having then become a populous centre,
rich in commercial traffic, it also became a main provincial
town of sentencing in Torres, and communal governing was given
to it (the Communal Statues of Sassari are numbered amongst
the oldest legal systems in Sardinia), even though in fact
it remained under the lordship of Pisa, stably installed on
the island since the first half of the 11th Century. It was
then spontaneously passed onto the Genoese after the Battle
of Meloria (1284) and at first, adhered to the new Aragonite
regime, then rebelling and opposing it, along with all the
other Sardinian centres. There was very tough resistance against
the islands occupation by the Aragonite reign (14th-15th Centuries),
then finally a surrender to the decisive conquest by Alfonso
V, the Magnanimous.
With Ferdinando the Catholic, Sardinia saw an administration
by Spanish Viceroys, with Sassari suffocating under the heavy
feudal privileges in favour of the new foreign aristocracy.
Under the Savoia Family (King of Sardinia from 1718-1720)
however, the City saw some signs of economic resumption through
some attempts for social reform (abolition of fees, etc.)
In 1796, the City underwent a tough reaction for having taken
part in the popular revolt led by the Angioj.
The old nucleus of Sassari is characteristic for its narrow
streets. There are examples remaining from the Romanesque
era, like the San Pietro di Silki Tower, the inferior part
of the Cathedral and the beautiful Santa Maria Di Betlem façade,
re-adjusted during the 15th Century, as well as the Church
of Saint Michael of Plaianu, in the neighbouring countryside.
The Church of San Donato is in part Romanesque-Gothic. Gothic
art showed notable developments which show Spanish and Nordic
influences, for example in the beautiful gargoyles of the
polygonal apse of the Cathedral. The following structures
belong to this era (14th, 15th Centuries and beginning of
the 16th): The Cathedral’s structure, the Churches of
Saint Agostino, Santa Maria di Betlem and Saint Peter of Silki,
the Brigliadore Springs, houses and palaces, as well as the
remains of the walls and fortifications.
Sassari is definitely the richest City in Sardinia regarding
Renaissance works like the church of Saint Caterina (1580-1590),
where Gothic tradition begins to be confused with the new
Renaissance forms and the curious local and popular decorations
on the stone carvings. There are notable examples in the following:
the church of Saint Apollinare, The Usini Palace, and the
There are also Baroque era examples such as the huge and magnificent
façade of the Cathedral, of a clearly Spanish form,
the chapels and altars in the same church, rich reconstruction
in Santa Maria di Betlem and the Church of the Servants of
Maria (or of Saint Antonio Abate). There are also numerous
buildings from the late 18th Century (Communal Building) and
from the 19th Century.
The following are amongst the most popular and traditional
celebrations which are spread out during the year: The Candlestick
Procession (14 August), in memory of the miraculous cessation
of a Black Plague epidemic (around 1580) and the Sardinian
Raid on Horseback (Ascension Day), in traditional island costume.