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The castle of San Michele in Cagliari

Castle of San Michele in Cagliari
Castle of San Michele in Cagliari

The Castle of San Michele in Cagliari lies on the hill in the north part of the city, 120 meters above sea level in a strategic position on the city, almost as if to protect the vast area that stretches to the Gulf of Angels.

Not by chance, this was exactly the function the castle had at first. Built around the tenth century, between the Byzantine and the Judicial periods, the castle was placed to keep watch over Santa Igia, the capital of the Giudicato of Cagliari, later destroyed by Pisans.

two side paths lead to the entrance of the Castle
Two side paths lead to the entrance of the castle

The structure

The building has a square plan, as well as the three corner towers and is surrounded by a moat and a curtain wall. A drawbridge allowed access to the castle.

Looking at the west part, you can see two entrances side by side: these are the remains of San Michele’s church. As a matter of fact, the castle was built upon it and took the name after that.

lato ovest del castello
the side entrances in the west wing

A gorgeous view from the castle

panorama dal castello
The view from the castle: Cagliari lies below

The castle’s owners over the centuries

In 1387, following the Catalan conquest of Cagliari, the castle of San Michele in Cagliari was granted to the noble Berengario Carroz in exchange for his loyalty and his military commitment to the crown, along with lands and fiefs that included part of the Sarrabus and went as far as Gallura.

The castle thus became one of the wealthiest residences in Sardinia, but also a place to carry out unclean business, economic exchanges on the verge of lawfulness, oppression and even of abuse and smuggling. On his death, Violante, the only legitimate daughter, inherits – albeit a woman – his father’s immense wealth and the power he conquered.

Violante is not loved by the locals, both because she is a powerful and rich woman, and because of her authoritarian and rebellious character.

Her life is a succession of bereavements and conjugal serenity, a mirage. Twice a widow, she also loses her children. She clashes with the canon Castangia who refuses to grant her the annulment of the marriage and has him killed. His mutilated body is hung as a warning from the tower of the castle. A very serious crime that the Church doesn’t delay in punishing: Violante is excommunicated.

Only many years later, perhaps repented for the gesture dictated by anger, she locks herself up in a cell of the Convento of San Francesco (which corresponds to via Sassari, in Cagliari) and dies here alone in 1511.

In 1511 the castle passes into the hands of another branch of the Carroz family, namely Guglielmo de Centelles, nephew of Violante, and then becomes a place of reception for the sick, during the plague that struck Cagliari in 1656.

In 1895 Roberto di San Tommaso, a wealthy local buys the castle and entrusts it to the mastery of the architect Dionigi Scano for restoration.
If the castle is now surrounded by a beautiful pine forest, in part it is due to the project of Dionigi Scano, in part to the work of the City of Cagliari, which, over the years, has enhanced one of the most interesting monuments of the city, although far from the center and wrapped in an aura of mystery.

Don’t you know the other Castles of Sardinia yet? There are many, some of them still in perfect condition: read more here

Photo credit: Enrico Melis

Cover picture: Valentina Cugusi