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Discovering Mara, itineraries in the country of the Meilogu among art, history, legends and mysteries

by Mario Bonu
Discovering Mara, itineraries in the country of the Meilogu among art, history, legends and mysteries

23 agosto 2023

History, legend, and mystery are intertwined in Mara, in a plot that spans the centuries and reaches the present day. Religiousness and battles, love and revenge, ancient civilizations and traditions, have marked the territory, leaving evidence of extraordinary historical value. Starting with the quintessential identity symbol of Mara: the sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonu Ighinu, an extraordinary site of worship and devotion. But the place of myth and mystery par excellence remains the nearby Bonvehi Castle, erected in the late 13th century by the Genoese Doria family, on a strategic rise that was later called “Sa punta 'e su Casteddu”, serving as a military outpost. All that remains of it now are the ruins, but they testify to the grandeur of the work. To that fortress, and to the intrigues that were hatched within its walls, is dedicated the novel “Il Colle del Diavolo”, by the “Cossoinese” writer Gavino Cossu (1844-1890), among the greatest exponents of the historical novel in Sardinia. It tells of Marquis Lupo Doria Malaspina, lord of the castle and a man of terrible ferocity, who had no qualms about persecuting and eventually killing his daughter Luisa, whose only guilt was her love for Guelfo di Donoratico, who was also beheaded by the marquis' sword.

“Nostra Signora di Bonu Ighinu”, a probable parish church of a medieval village in the 13th century, has come down to us in splendid shape, thanks to the radical makeover in 1797, when the church's façade, with adjoining staircase, was rebuilt and enlarged. «It looks like a precious retable in Baroque style, – the architect Vico Mossa had this to say – for those overlapping and decorated pedestals, for the arabesque columns, for the pediment, unique in the Island, cut out in points». And here again the legend comes to the rescue, according to which the church was erected on the site where Our Lady appeared to ask the inhabitants of Mara and nearby villages, in perpetual conflict with each other, to re-establish the rules of bonu ighinau, of good neighborliness. Hence the name Bonu Ighinu. Of great interest, also in the area, is the “Cave of Filiestru”, whose material found attests to the use of the site from the earliest Neolithic phase (6000 B.C.). Equally important is the cave of “Sa Ucca de su Tintirriolu”, the Bat's Mouth. Three archaeological states have been found in it: the shallowest one of the “Monte Claro Culture” (second half of the 3rd millennium B.C.), the next of the “Ozieri Culture” (4000-3300 B.C.), and the deepest one at the “Bonu Ighinu Culture” (4000-3400 B.C.). Also regarding archaeology, 17 nuraghi have been surveyed in the territory of Mara, some well preserved, others reduced to ruins. In the town center, the parish church of St. John the Baptist, built around 1700, is valuable. It has a Baroque-style facade, and a very distinctive octagonal-shaped bell tower. Also in the village is the church of Santa Croce, built in the 17th century. Worth seeing are the murals, and in particular the one dedicated to the great extemporary “marese” poet Francesco Sale. Important is the “Exhibition Center of Peasant Civilization”, inaugurated in 2007 and housed in an old mansion restored and adapted as an exhibition space. And precisely because of the great attention that Mara has always reserved to traditional culture, next Aug. 19 the municipality is organizing the event “Mara pro s'amistade”, a traveling folk festival through the streets of the town, discovering customs, traditions and typical local dishes. Participating are the Merdules bezzos of Otzana, organists Lorenzo Chessa, Maria Antonietta Bosu, Alberto Caddeo, costumed couples from the folk group Santu Giuanne Battista of Mara, Cossoine, Ittiri, Borore, Ottana, the Bonuighinu Choir of Mara, and the Florinas Choir. «Mara has a great heritage of culture and identity – says Mayor Paolo Chessa – and also with these events we intend to enhance it».

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