Basilica of Santa Croce: an ancient symbolic monument in Cagliari
The Basilica of Santa Croce, in Cagliari, is one of the jewels of the great historical and architectural heritage of the Sardinian capital, every Sunday morning since 2008, it hosts the mass in Latin according to the extraordinary Roman rite.
The Basilica of Santa Croce is among the most beautiful and interesting places to visit in Cagliari and its surroundings, a place of worship rich in history that before becoming a church was a synagogue.
The Basilica of Santa Croce is in Castello, one of the historic districts of Cagliari, to admire it you must enter the heart of the city and access the medieval quarter from the bastion Saint Remy: once passed the Torre dell’Elefante, along with the Holy Cross bastion in the direction of the Jewish Ghetto, you reach the majestic historical building.
The monumental church of Cagliari is bounded by via Corte Appello and the square Santa Croce, where the main entrance of the sanctuary opens, and the location makes it difficult to photograph the entire facade of the building as you can only retreat a few steps in the churchyard. Attached to the basilica there is the vast complex of the former Jesuit college, which over the centuries has hosted the mount of Piety, the printing press, the court, the court of appeal, the faculty of Letters of the University of Cagliari and, today, that of Architecture.
The facade of the basilica consists of two orders separated by high bands that continue on the two side elevations. In the lower order, the portal, which opens on top of a small staircase, is surmounted by a curved tympanum, while the upper order, framed by two pairs of Doric pilasters, is divided into five pieces. The church also has two bell towers: one with a sail parallel to the facade, the other with a square tower surmounted by an oriental dome.
The interior of the building has a single nave with three chapels per side, each of which is covered by vaults decorated with Baroque altars made of polychrome marble, where there are both sculptural and pictorial works of art dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The presbytery, enclosed by a semicircular abyss where there are frescoes representing Saints Maurice and Lazarus, is embellished by a high altar with a wooden crucified Christ.
Since 2008, every Sunday morning, the Mass of the Basilica of Santa Croce is carried out in Latin according to the extraordinary Roman rite. Also, since 2018 the church is a personal parish for the Tridentine Mass, second in Italy after the parish of the Holy Trinity of Pilgrims in Rome.
Basilica of Santa Croce: from synagogue to magistral basilica
The history of the Basilica of Santa Croce is connected to that of the village in which it stands: the church was originally the synagogue of the so-called Giudaria di Cagliari, or the ancient Jewish quarter, that rose in the heart of the castle since the thirteenth century and reached the maximum expansion under the Aragonese domination, in the fourteenth and fifteenth century.
The fate of the synagogue changed in 1492 when Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile issued a decree of expulsion from their lands addressed to all Jews and Muslims who had not converted to Christianity. The Jews were expelled also from Cagliari and the temple that stood in Giudaria was soon converted into a Catholic church dedicated to the Holy Cross.
In 1530 the church was granted to the Ariconfraternita del Santo Monte di Pietà composed exclusively of members belonging to the nobility who had the task of providing comfort to those sentenced to death.
The building was used by the brotherhood until 1564, before being handed over at the request of Archbishop Parraguez to the Jesuits, who arrived in Cagliari and were granted the use of Santa Croce and some houses in the vicinity of the church, constituting the first nucleus of the Jesuit college.
In 1661, thanks to the inheritance of the marquises of Villacidro Anna Brondo, the Jesuit fathers carried out restoration works, enlarging and renovating the building which was completely transformed. Still today, on the slender and imposing facade that distinguishes the structure of the basilica, you can see the coat of arms of the Jesuit order, that of the Brondo family and the inscription dedicated to the benefactress Anna Brondo: “D. Anna Brundo / founders / Ill. M D. Felix Brundo/ M. de Villacidro / pronepo / Year MDCLXI”.
With the suppression of the Society of Jesus by Clement XIV in 1773, the ownership of the church and the college of Santa Croce passed into the hands of the State. Later, and more precisely in 1809, King Vittorio Emmanuele I handed the church over to the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, raising it to the title of Magistral Basilica.
The building was severely damaged by the bombing that hit Cagliari in 1943 and was reconstructed only three years later. After about twenty years of closure, thanks to numerous restoration works, the temple was reopened to worship in 2007.
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