The Hypogeum of "San Salvatore di Sinis"

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Entry of San Salvatore churchThe small hamlet of "San Salvatore di Sinis", that is located very close to the Cabras' pond, looks like an ancient deserted village, that is repopulated once a year for the feast of the patron saint, between the end of August and the beginning of September.
In the center of the small village we find the small country church of San Salvatore, belonging to the 17th century, that hides a much older subterranean location: an hypogeum dating back to the roman period (3rd -4th sec A.D.), but that was already used for the cult of water since the nuragic period in the Neolithic.
We reach the hypogeum taking the steps from the left transept of the church. It is partly dug in the rock and partly built with sandstone and brickwork, and is 12 meters long and 10 meters large, composed by 5 rooms that develop around a central round room, where dominates the sacred well that was used to celebrate the worship of water.
The peculiarity of the hypogeum of San Salvatore is mostly due to the variety of people that have been there, in different periods but always for worship, and that have let their marks on the rooms' walls, that are in fact covered with inscriptions and drawings, that are more or less accurate. The inscriptions are mainly in Latin and Greek, apart from a long Arabian text in the central room, that contains several formules of the Muslim religion and probably dates back to the 16th-17th centuries.
HypogeumThe recurring inscription RF seems to be Punic ("rufù"="heal" in Semitic language), whereas a great part of the drawings seems to belong to the roman period. Among these, a frequent motif is the boat, that is represented in different shapes, and it would be ex-votos made from the sailors to have protection. There are also several representations of animals (panthers, horses, dolphins), as well as humans and heroes or gods, as Hercules killing the lion Nemes, or the scene representing Venus and Mars. For the scientists it hasn’t been easy to establish the precise period where the graffiti were made, but anyway, the location certainly shows continuity between pagan and Christian religion (the Christian period is also witnessed by the two altars that are in the hypogeum).
The hamlet of San Salvatore is also famous in the island for the celebration that takes place every year from centuries, the "Race of barefoot". This tradition's origins date back to the 16th century, during the Spanish domination, when one of the several Muslim invasions arrived to Cabras. The inhabitants had to take the statue of the saint from San Salvatore to Cabras to protect him from the invaders. So since then, every year the traditional race takes place. The celebrations start on Friday, when the women wearing the traditional Sardinian costume, accompany in procession a small statue of the Saint, called "Su Santigheddu", from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cabras to the church of San Salvatore. The same day starts the novena, during which the inhabitants of Cabras occupy the "cumbessias", that are dwellings for pilgrims. On Saturday, hundreds of men run barefoot and wearing a white tunic, transporting the saint's statue along the 9 kilometres from Cabras to San Salvatore. On Sunday, they take back the statue running from San Salvatore to Cabras.
Another peculiarity of the village is that at the end of the 60s it was used as film set for some westerns, as it was said that the Sinis, with its golden hills, reminded the Mexican landscapes. So the "cumbessìas" were modified and a saloon was created, that was then destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt. Anyway, the hamlet of San Salvatore, with all its peculiarities, deserves to be visited.

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