In the plain of Campidano, imposing as a guardian, stands the Castle of Monreale, halfway between the small towns of Sardara and San Gavino.
Unfortunately, the exact year of its construction is uncertain, but historians assume its building dates between 1200 and 1300. It was mainly a strategic observation point and a military fortress.
With mighty walls up to 10 meters high, without windows and surrounded by towers, the castle lived its most important period during the centuries of wars and contrasts between the Arborea and Aragonese.
The first document attesting a certain title about the Castle of Monreale (short form for “Mons Regalis”, royal mount in English) is the assignment of the property to Mariano and Andreotto de Bas of Arborea by James II.
Mariano IV and Eleonora d’Arborea were some of the illustrious “tenants”: today only the external walls of the ground floor and the remains of the medieval village that developed over time in the hill below are the visible ruins left of the Castle of Monreale.
According to historians, it was also a prison and a place of execution: Mariano IV had two people executed, in fact, charged of attempted murder of two Catalan prisoners locked up in Oristano’s prison.
But it also served as a refuge, as in the story of William III of Narbonne, who found repair among the walls of the castle after the defeat of the Arborensi by the Aragonese, in the battle of Sanluri (Sa Battalla) in 1409.
The Castle was accessible through two gates: one to the north towards Sardara and the Baths of Santa Maria de is Aquas and one to the west towards the village of San Gavino.
The Castle of Monreale and the Baths of Santa Maria de is Aquas
The Baths of Santa Maria de is Aquas were already known in Roman times when the invaders soon discovered their healing properties.
It seems that even the king of the Giudicato di Arborea, Ugone II, many centuries later, often resorted to thermal treatments to combat problems related to gout.
The baths later took this name because of the proximity next to the church dedicated to the Madonna, Maria Delle Acque, built around 1200.
Just some words about the church: it ‘s in Gothic style and was built on the pre-existing structures of a church. Inside was kept a simulacrum of the Madonna that, still today, the faithful carry in procession during the annual festival (Sa Festa manna) which takes place on the penultimate Monday of September.
“Sa Festa manna” in Sardara
It is called Sa festa manna (the big festival) and takes place in the rural sanctuary, built in the eighteenth century, just where, during the Roman rule, there were the so-called aquae calidae neapolitanae.
How do I get to the Castle of Monreale?
Getting to the Castle of Monreale is very simple: if you arrive from Cagliari, take the SS 131 and follow it until the exit for Sardara. At this point, take the S.P. 4.7 and cover 4.2 km.
You will find yourself in front of the castle. The walk that takes you to the top of the hill is a dirt path but suitable for everyone.
Photo Credit: Gianni Careddu