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The second largest Italian island in the Mediterranean, lying between 41°15' and 38°51' N. lat. and having an area of 9294 square miles. The principal gulfs, almost all on the western coast, are those of Cagliari, the largest, Teulada, Palmas, Carloforte, Terranova, and Tortoli. These gulfs give their names to as many ports, all of which, like the smaller ports, are fine natural harbours. The largest islands belonging to Sardinia are: S. Antioco, S. Pietro, Asinara, Caprera, and S. Stefano. There are three mountain ranges in the island; the most northerly — the mountains of Limbara — rise to an elevation of 4468 feet; the central range contains Gennargentu, the culminating point of Sardinia, 6016 feet high; and the southern Monte Linas, 4055 feet. There are numerous extinct volcanoes: Monte Ferru (3448 ft.), Monte Mannu Nurri (3104 ft.), Cheremule (2924 ft.), etc. The largest river is the Tirso, 94 miles long, rising in the Budduso mountains, with two estuaries, one at the lagoon of St. Giusta, the other at the sea near Oristano. Among the other rivers are the Rio di Porto Torres, Coquinas, Mannu, Flumendosa, and Samassi. There are thirty-seven lagoons along the seacoast (Cagliari, a great fishing centre, Oristano, Sassu, Palmas, etc.). In addition there are many marshes now being reclaimed for agricultural purposes. The most extensive plains are the Campidano near Cagliari, the Piano della Nurra, and the Campo di Ozieri. The island is formed chiefly of granite, trachyte, basalt, other volcanic rocks, and of chalk deposits. The climate is temperate, but malaria prevails in the plains in summer, which accounts for the small population. The fata morgana (mirage) is of common occurrence. In 1901 the population was 791,754; at present (1911) it is estimated to be about 850,000 (90 to the square mile).

Sardinia is rich in minerals; the most plentiful metal is lead, mingled with silver. The richest beds of ore lie in the circumscriptions of Iglesias, Nuoro, Lanusei, Sassari, and in the. mountains of Nurra. Iron is found chiefly in the mountains of the southwest, especially about Capoterra and Ogliastra. Copper, manganese, antimony, and zinc are mined in certain districts. Lignite occurs in fairly extensive beds near Gonnesa, Iglesias, and Sulcis; anthracite and graphite in smaller quantities. There are 117 mines, employing 12,000 men, and having an output valued at about 21,000,000 francs (1903). The flora of the island includes vast, forests of oak which supply an immense quantity of cork, olives, oranges, quinces, chestnuts, walnuts, and carob-beans. Among the fauna the principal are the numerous herds of mouf flons (Ovis Ammon), with large curving horns, and of goats; deer, stags, and wild boars are plentiful in the wooded mountains; wild horses disappeared only a few decades ago. The domesticated horses are remarkably sturdy; a species of small horse is largely exported to Algeria. The small Sardinian ass is in great demand as a pet on the peninsula. Oxen are used in ploughing, the beef is good, but the milk supply very short. In the oak forests there still exists a species of wild pig, like the wild boar.

Agriculture is in a backward state owing to the scanty population; the farms are mostly medium-sized or small; 618.75 square miles are incapable of cultivation. One of the worst agricultural pests in Sardina is the locusts which come over from Africa in large swarms. The total produce for 1903 was wheat, 4,824,090 bushels; Indian corn, 178,775 bushels, wine, 63,664,970 gallons; oil, 221,110 gallons; the salt pans of Cagliari are the most productive in Italy, the output for the year 1905 being 1,403,372 pounds. The birds most worthy of notice are the pelicans, herons, and flamingos which come over during August in large flocks from Africa. The seas abound in fish of every kind, sardines, anchovies, and especially tunny-fish, of which more than 661,386 pounds are exported annually. Near the island of S. Pietro, the Gulfs of Palmas, Asinara, Oristano, and Cape Caxbonara there are extensive beds of coral, 5512 pounds of which are exported each year.

In historic times the people of Sardinia have undergone less amalgamation than any other Italian population. According to the ancient geographers, the primitive population of Sardinia was akin to the Libyans; Iberians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Italians came later. Certainly the Latin language was adopted in the island, and even today the Sardinian resembles Latin more than any other of the Italian dialects. There are three chief Sardinian dialects: that of Sassari which approaches Corsican and Tuscan, that of Logudoro, and that of Cagliari (Sardinian properly so-called, somewhat like Sicilian). The most striking characteristic of the Sardinian language is that, while throughout the peninsula of Italy the article is derived from the Latin pronoun ille (il, lo, la, 'o, 'u), in Sardinian it is derived from ipse (su, masculine; sa, feminine). In the neighbourhood of Alghero, Catalan is spoken. The Sardinian is by nature taciturn and laborious, but clings to his ancient customs; linen, cloth etc.); they like bright coloured. clothing, especially red, while the men dress in black: the latter wear a peculiar cap, which is like a long stocking covering the head and hanging down the back. They are vivacious and love singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the launedda, the ancient tibia. In the environs of Gallura the people meet together in the winter evenings and practise improvisation. There is little education among the poorer classes, but the wealthier families fully appreciate the value of higher education, jurisprudence being a favourite study. The percentage of illiterates is comparatively speaking lower (68.3 per cent of those under the age of 21 and 69.6 for those over 21) than in the Abruzzi, Apulia, Sicily, Basilicata, and Calabria. There are in the island 1056 public elementary, and 40 private, schools, 48 evening and vacation schools, 4 normal schools, 9 public academics and one not yet completed, 2 lyceums and one in course of construction, 3 technical schools, 2 technical institutes, I school of applied art, 2 schools of music, 2 universities in Cagliari and Sassari.

The bonds of family life are very strong, there being few illegitimate births; the Sardinian is quick to avenge the honour of his wife or family. The percentage of convictions is higher than that of the kingdom, but serious offences are less frequent (25 per 100,000 inhabitants against 25-3)'. Brigandage, which in times gone by afflicted the island, was caused partly by the sparseness of the population, which offered malefactors a greater chance of escaping, or by the custom of the vendetta, on account of which one who had been guilty of an act of vendetta or who feared to fall a victim to it had to conceal himself and to become a brigand; another cause in the last century, was the radical changes introduced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in regard to economic customs and rights (the right of cutting timber, of pasturage etc.). However, for some years there have been no properly authenticated cases of brigandage in Sardinia. The island is divided civilly into two provinces: Cagliari (called under the Spanish regime Cape di sotto) and Sassari (Cape di sopra). These two provinces contain 9 departments, 92 boroughs, and 363 communes. Ecclesiastically it is divided into 3 archdioceses and 8 dioceses: Cagliari, with its suffragan sees Galtelli-Nuoro, Iglesias, Ogliastra; Oristano with its suffragans Ales and Terralba; Sassari with its suffragans Alghero, Ampurias and Tempio, Bisarchio, Bosa. Formerly there existed the Sees of Doglia, Forum Traianum, Fasiana, Suello (Cagliari), Sulcis (Iglesias), Torres, Sorra, Ploaghe (Sassari), Ottaba, Castro (Alghero), Civita (Ampurias), Sta Giusta (Oristano).


The name of the island is derived from Sardon or Sardus, the principal god venerated by the inhabitants, who had a large temple at the Gulf of Oristano. Some writers wish to identify the Sardinians with the Shardana who, in the reign of Rameses III, invaded Egypt. Concerning their race, ancient writers believe them akin to the Libyans, the Iberians, or the Corsicans. A comparison of the idols of the most ancient inhabitants with the style of dress of the present inhabitants shows that the present Sardinian race is practically identical with the primitive race. To the latter must be attributed the peculiar monuments (about 3000 in number), called nuraghe, scattered through the island, which are like truncated cones, 53 feet high, and 99 wide at the base, constructed of large masses of limestone, granite, or tufa, superimposed without mortar. The entrance to the nuraghe faces the south and is about five or six feet high, and two feet wide; it leads to a spiral stairway in the wall of the nuraghe, which communicates with the two or three superimposed circular rooms, having a sharp angular roof like that of the treasury of Mycenae. Other smaller cones are frequently found around the principal nuraghe. There are various opinions as to the object of these buildings: fortified towers, dwellings, sacerdotal sepulchres (in none have arms been found; all contained skeletons and ornaments), pyres etc.

Scattered throughout the length of the entire island and not unlike the nuraghe in appearance are a number of groups of circular dwellings of stone measuring from fifteen to twenty-five feet in diameter. Their proximity to each other would suggest that they had once formed part of villages. They are not often met with in the north-eastern extremity, but in the middle of the island they are very frequent. Close to each of these buildings was the tombe de gianti or giant's tomb; a vaulted chamber of about thirty or forty feet in length, with sides of rough masonry and a roof formed by a superimposed slab. Smaller tombs (domus de gianas) were also found in a great many places, but were more often met with in the most inaccessible regions, and assumed the shape of grottoes chiselled from the rock rather than that of vaulted chambers. The Phoenician traders naturally visited the island; Caralis (Cagliari) was their great market; Phoenician inscriptions too have been found. The Carthaginians were not content to trade with Sardinia, they wished to subdue it (about 500 B.C); bitter wars were waged. Nevertheless, various cities were founded. In the First Punic War, L. Cornelius Scipio defeated the Carthaginians (259) near Olbia (Terranova). A little later the mercenaries rebelled against their Carthaginian masters and established a military government against which the natives revolted, thus giving the Romans an excuse for intervening (238) and taking possession of the island, which along with Corisca was formed into a province under a praetor. Native uprisings were repressed with extreme severity: Sempronius Gracchus (181) partly killed and partly sold into slavery 80,000 of the inhabitants; again in 114 Caecilius Metellus had to crush an insurrection.

The Romans by constructing roads improved the economic conditions of the island, which, although it was considered by the Government for the most part poor and unproductive and a place of punishment for those condemned to the mines, enjoyed great prosperity. The chief towns were Caralis, Sulci, Nura, Neapolis, Tharros, Othoca, Olbia, Forum Traiani, Bosa, Tibulae. The province . was now imperial and now senatorial. It is possible that the first seeds of Christianity were introduced into Sardinia by the few Christians who with 4000 Jews were exiled to the island by Tiberius. In the second and third centuries many Roman Christians, including Callistus, later pope, Pope St. Pontianus, and the antipope Hippolytus, were sent to the island (described as nociva): the last two died there. Among the Sardinian martyrs are the bishops who preceded St. Lucifer of Cagliari, of whom St. Athanasius speaks, which shows that at least in the time of the Diocletian persecution that city was the seat of a bishopric; St. Bonifacius, Bishop of Cagliari, whose tombstone' was discovered in 1617 in the cathedral (Corpus Inscript. Lat. Siciliae et Sardiniae, II, n. 7753), was not a personal disciple of Christ but belonged to the age after Constantius. Other martyrs are recorded at Cagliari, Sulci, Torres; not all of them, however, have been authenticated. Up to the present time only one Christian cemetery is known, that of Bonorva near Cagliari; there are ruins of a fourth-century Christian basilica at Tharros. Christian inscriptions have been found in Cagliari (66), Tharros, Torres, Terranova.

In 456 the island was taken by the Vandals, who were wont to exile thither, especially to the neighbourhood of Cagliari, the African bishops and Catholics. In 534 it was recovered for the empire by Cyrillus, and included in the Diocese of Africa. In 551 it was captured by Totila. As far as is known the Longobards raided the island only once (589), but did not obtain control of it. Sardinia, moreover, was abandoned to its fate by the Byzantines more than the peninsula, and consequently the tradition which dates in the sixth century the origin of the three (later four) judicatures, into which the island was later divided, may have a historical foundation. The tradition runs that Taletus, a citizen of Cagliari, rebelled against the Byzantine Government, proclaimed himself King of Sardinia, and divided the island among his three sons. From the letters of St. Gregory we know that in some parts of the island, especially in the ecclesiastical possessions there were many pagans who had to pay a tax to the judex of the island for each sacrifice. In the ninth century such was the general depravity that Paulus, Bishop of Populonia, and Abbot Saxo, legate of Nicholas I, placed the whole island under excommunication. The episcopal sees were reduced to four in the tenth century. This decadence is to be attributed in part to the inroads in the seventh century of the Saracens, who were, however, always repulsed by the Sardinians. The latter had to establish an autonomous military organization, which naturally led to a political organization, the chiefs of which, while preserving the title of Byzantine governor, were called judges. In the tenth century there were four of these judges in Torres, Arborea, Gallura, and Cagliari; this distribution of the island remained till the Aragonese conquest.

Shortly after 1000, Mughebid, Emir of the Balearic Islands, conquered Sardinia and from there made descents on the Tuscan coast (Pisa and Luni). Encouraged by the pope, to whom Charlemagne had given Sardinia, the Pisans with the assistance of the Sardinians drove him out. Mughebid was defeated a second time with the help of the Pisans and Genoese. The pope's suzerainty was then recognized willingly by the judges. The Genoese and the Pisans had a monopoly of the trade and also possession of several towns on the coast, and moreover acted as arbiters in the quarrels of the judges. But later a dispute arose between the two cities, in regard to the limits of their respective rights. Moreover, as Pisa was an imperial city, the emperors claimed rights over the island. In the struggle only the seaboard towns suffered, but the commercial advantages compensated the damage caused by war. The interior which was under the control of the judges exclusively continued to flourish. Barbarossa named his uncle Welf, King of Sardinia, but in 1164 sold the kingdom to Barisone, judge of Arborea, who was crowned at Pavia. Other families in the peninsula like the Malaspina of Luni, the Visconti of Pisa, and the Doria of Genoa, had acquired property in the island and become related to the judges by marriage. The judicatures of Cagliari, Torres, and Gallura were suppressed by the Pisans. When later Adelasia, widow of Ubaldo Visconti and mistress of the judicatures of Torres and Gallura, married (1238) Enzo, Frederick II's bastard, the latter proclaimed himself King of Sardinia; but be was soon overthrown and after twenty-two years' imprisonment died at Bologna. The marriage of the Genoese Michele Zanche with Enzo's mother embittered the war between Pisa and Genoa. When Pisa was victorious their vassals, the della Gherardesca and Nino di Gallura, rose in revolt, some signiories passing to the Visconti of Milan. Finally the Genoese got the northwest and the Pisans the south-east.

In 1297 Boniface VIII, in order to induce the King of Aragon to restore Sicily to Charles of Anjou granted the investiture of Sardinia to Alfonso of Aragon . The latter aided by Branca Doris, judge of Logudoro and lord of Alghero, Ugone of Arborea, and the commune of Sassari, began war against the Pisans, who in 1324 had to sign a treaty which left them only the port and lagoon of Cagliari and two suburbs; and from these they were expelled later. On the defeat of the Pisans it was necessary to subdue the ancient allies: i.e. the Genoese and the rulers of Arborea. Mariano IV fought successfully against the Aragonese, but was carried off by a pestilence (1367); his son Guglielmo IV abdicated in favour of the Aragonese, and died little later. In the beginning the King of Aragon planted colonies of Catalonians and Aragonese in the island. Sardinia had a viceroy and a parliament composed of the three orders: barons, clergy, and the commons meeting separately and communicating among themselves by means of deputies. The charter of Eleanora was adopted as a Constitution; and the King of Aragon swore in the presence of the Sardinian deputies to observe it. Nevertheless, the Aragonese Government succeeded in establishing in the island a dominant Spanish class, either by granting most of the fiefs to Spanish nobles or by appointing Spanish prelates to most of the sees. This stirred up enmity between the natives and the ruling classes; but only one attempt at rebellion is recorded, that of Leonardo Alagon (1470). In the history of the succeeding years we may note the expulsion of all the Corsicans (1479) and Jews (1492), some Saracen inroads, and three attempts of the French to conquer the island (1528 at Castel Sardo; 1637 at Oristano; 1644 at Alghero).

The War of the Spanish Succession plunged the island in anarchy. By the Peace of Utrecht (1713) Sardinia was given to Austria, for which the mountaineers of Gallura had declared themselves from the beginning. Cardinal Alberoni's bold attempt (1717) regained the island for the Spaniards; but in 1718 by the Treaty of London it was given to Savoy in exchange for Sicily which was awarded to Austria. The dukes of Savoy then assumed the title of King of Sardinia. The kingdom comprised at that time the Island of Sardinia, the Duchies of Savoy, Aosta, and Monferrato, the Principality of Piedmont, the Marquisate of Saluzzo, the Counties of Asti and Nizza, and some Lombard towns as far as the Ticino. King Charles Emmanuel III (1720-73) and his minister Bogino began certain reforms in the island, a work which was interrupted from 1773 till 1820. In 1792 the French admiral, Truquet, attempted to land at Cagliari but was repulsed. In the following years there were several attempts to throw off the power of the Piedmontese. King Charles Emmanuel IV took refuge in the island from 1799 till 1806, when his domains were invaded by the French. The Congress of Vienna gave the Republic of Genoa to the Sardinians. The kingdom then contained thirty-seven provinces. Between 1820 and 1848 feudalism, which in 1807 had caused widespread rebellion of the burgesses against the nobles, was abolished. Another project was the construction of a vast network of roads which were greatly needed. In general however the Savoy and Italian Governments have neglected the wants, and interests of the Sardinians. In 1861 after the annexation of almost all the peninsula the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed at Florence and that of Sardinia came to an end.

The following is a list of the kings: Victor Amadeus II (1718-30), who abdicated in favour of his son Charles Emmanuel 111 (1730-73), regretting which he was imprisoned at Moncalieri where he died (1732). Charles Emmanuel to conquer the Milanese allied himself with France and Spain, in the War of the Polish Succession; he was frequently victorious but only obtained the region on the right of the Ticino (1738). He took part in the War of the Austrian Succession; gained splendid victories (the siege of Toulon, 1746; the battle of Col dell' Assietta, 1747), but with very little profit, gaining only the county of Angers, and Arona, the valley of Ossola, Vigevano, and Bobbio. Victor Amadeus 111 (1773-96), for having crushed the nationalist movement in Savoy (1791) with excessive severity, was overthrown by the revolutionary army which captured Savoy and Nizza. He allied himself with Austria and the campaign was conducted with varying fortunes, but when Bonaparte took command of the French troops Victor Amadeus had to agree to a humiliating peace. Charles Emmanuel IV (1796-1802) made an offensive treaty with France, whereupon his subjects revolted. The rebellion was crushed with severity and thousands of democrats emigrated either into France or to the Cisalpine Republic, whence they returned in arms. The royalists having obtained the upper hand, France intervened and obliged the king to abandon his possessions on the mainland (19 December, 1798). Charles Emmanuel withdrew to Sardinia; and in 1802 abdicated in favour of his brother Victor Emmanuel I (1802-21), who in 1814 was returned to Turin and saw his dominions increased by the inclusion of Genoa.

As happened elsewhere the restoration did not do justice to the legitimate aspirations of the democrats. There followed the revolution of 1821 caused by a demand for a Constitution and for war with Austria to obtain possession of Lombardy, which Piedmont had coveted for centuries. As the king had agreed with Austria and Naples not to grant the Constitution, he abdicated in favour of Charles Felix, his brother, who was absent at the time; Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano, assumed the regency and on 13 March, 1821, promulgated the Constitution of Spain, which was not accepted by Charles Felix (1821-31). Meanwhile, the revolutionary party had joined in the movement for Italian unity, but there was difference of opinion as to the form of that unity, whether there should be a great republic, or a federation of republics, or again a single monarchy or a federation of principalities. Many however were indifferent to the form. In 1831, therefore, disturbances began in Central Italy but were easily suppressed. The same year Charles Felix died without offspring and was succeeded by Charles Albert (1831-48). The Piedmontese then decided in favour of a United Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy, and to that end all the efforts of the Sardinian Government were henceforward directed. In 1847 Charles Albert granted freedom of the press and other liberal institutions. On 8 February he promulgated the statute which still remains the fundamental law of the Kingdom of Italy. One month later he declared war on Austria in order to come to the rescue of the Lombards who were eager to throw off the Austrian yoke at once. Though victorious in the first engagements, he suffered a severe defeat at Custoza and, after the armistice of Salasco, was again defeated at Novara (1849).

The King of Sardinia had for the time being to abandon his idea of conquest. Charles Albert abdicated in favour of his son Victor Emmanuel II (1849-78) and withdrew to Oporto where he died the same year. There followed ten years of military preparations, which were tested in the Crimean War, and vigorous diplomatic and sectarian operations to the detriment of the other Italian rulers, carried out under the direction and inspiration of Count di Cavour, who did not hesitate to enter into league with Mazzini, the head of the Republicans, knowing well that the latter's principles while bringing about the destruction of the other Italian states on the one hand, could not on the other, serve as a basis for a permanent political organization. In 1859 the Sardinian Government aided by France, declared war on Austria and captured all Lombardy with the exception of Mantua. At the same time in Tuscany, the Duchies of Parma and Modena, the legations, the marquisates, and in Umbria the national committees established provisional governments and declared the supremacy of the House of Savoy. Garibaldi landed in Sicily and passed thence into Calabria. The royal armies everywhere joined with the revolutionary party and on 27 March, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed which included all the peninsula except Venice and the Patrimony of St. Peter.

The King of Sardinia was confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII in his right of nominating bishops and other high dignitaries, a right conceded previously by Nicholas V to the dukes of Savoy. In 1742 a concordat was concluded between the Sardinian Government and the Holy See, which granted extensive privileges to the Government, which were increased further by Clement XIV and Pius VI. As the Italian Concordat of 1803 was extended to Piedmont after the restoration there was no doubt as to the validity of the old and the new treaties. Consequently in 1816 Pius VII made suitable provisions, and in 1824 an agreement concerning the administration and distribution of ecclesiastical property was arrived at. In 1854 attempts were made to have a new concordat, but as on the one hand, the demands of the Government were too exorbitant, and, on the other, the civil authorities had enacted laws injurious to the Church nothing was done. After the promulgation of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Sardinia the following dioceses were founded or else reestablished: in Sardinia, Iglesias (1764); Galtelli-Nuoro, (1780); Bisarchio (1805); Ogliastro (1824); on the peninsula: Pinerolo (1748), Susa (1772), Cuneo (1817), Biella (1772). During the Revolutionary epoch (1805) the dioceses of Alba, Fossano, Alessandria, Pinerolo, Susa, Biella, Aosta, Bobbie, Tortona, were suppressed. In 1817 Vercelli became an archiepiscopal see.


COSSU, La Sardegna (Rome, 1901); BRESCIANI, I costumi della Sardegna (Milan, 1890): CIMBALI, La Sardegna è in Italia? MATTEI Sardinia Sacra (Rome, 1761); PINTUS, Sardinia Sacra, I (Iglesias, 1904); BOGGIO, La Chiesa e lo Stato di Sardegna dal 1000 al 1854 (Turin, 1854); MANNO Storia di Sardegna (3rd ed., Turin, 1835).

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APA citation. Benigni, U. (1912). Sardinia. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Benigni, Umberto. "Sardinia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jeffrey L. Anderson.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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