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 Rosello Spring.

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.


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