Nuraghe di Santa Cristina

Top choice in Western Sardinia

Just off the SS131 north of Oristano, the sanctuary at Santa Cristina is an important nuraghic complex. The nuraghic village's extraordinary Bronze Age tempio a pozzo (well temple) is one of the best preserved in Sardinia. The worship of water was a fundamental part of nuraghic religious practice, and there are reckoned to be about 40 sacred wells across the island – this is the most awe-inspiring example.

On entering the site, the first area you come to is a small village centred on the Chiesa di Santa Cristina, an early Christian church dedicated to Santa Cristina. The church and the terraced muristenes (pilgrims’ huts) that surround it are opened for only 20 days a year – 10 days preceding each of the twin feast days of Santa Cristina (second Sunday in May) and San Raffaele Arcangelo (fourth Sunday in October).

From the church, a path leads about 150m to the well temple. Dating back to the late Bronze Age (11th to 9th century BC), the tempio a pozzo is accessible through a finely cut basalt keyhole entrance and a flight of 24 superbly preserved steps. When you reach the bottom you can gaze up at the perfectly constructed tholos (conical tower), through which light enters the dark well shaft. Every 18 years, one month and two days, the full moon shines directly through the aperture into the well. Otherwise you can catch the yearly equinoxes on 21 March and 23 September, when the sun lights up the stairway down to the well.

Over on the other side of the Christian village is the Nuraghe di Santa Cristina, a single 7m-high tower set in a peaceful olive grove. This once stood at the heart of a nuraghic village, which was inhabited until the early Middle Ages and whose remains lie littered around the atmospheric woody glades.

The complex has an on-site bar-cafe and gift shop.

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