Basilica di San Gavino

© Elio Villa/Shutterstock

Basilica di San Gavino

Northwestern Sardinia

Porto Torres' modern, workaday streets provide the unlikely setting for Sardinia’s largest Romanesque church. Built between 1030 and 1080, the basilica is an impressive and architecturally important structure, notable for its facing apses – it has no facade – and three lateral portals. Its austere interior is divided by 28 marble columns, pilfered by the Pisan builders from the ancient Roman city, while underneath, the crypt is lined with religious statuary and various stone tombs.

The church, which stands on an ancient pagan burial ground, is dedicated to one of the great Sardinian saints. Gavino (Gavinus in English) was the commander of the Roman garrison at Torres during the reign of the emperor Diocletian. According to legend, he was converted to Christianity by two priests, Protus and Januarius, and beheaded with them on 25 October 304. Evidence for these events is scanty, but the myth of the martiri turritani (martyrs of Torres) is strongly rooted.

To get to the basilica follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele back from the port for about 1km; it's a block or so to the west.

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