The sacred road
A route among the churches of Oliena
Sant’Ignazio di Loyola church

The Jesuits ordered the church of Saint Ignazio, and it took over a century to build, from the latter half of the ’600 till 1758. Domenico Spotorno from Genova did the initial project and he gave the church peculiarities of his city. The final result is more in line with the canons of the ’700s tough.
The dome of the church tower is made following the French style.
The clergy has a saint statue, and an altar made according to Spotorno’s indications, very late Baroque, with festoons, shells, leaves and polychrome columns.
Several ancient and modern works of art can be appreciated among the aisles, including valuable wooden sculptures, silverware, sacred vestments, and ancient volumes.

Jesuits’ College

The Convent attached to the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, being also used as a school, was renamed as the College. It is an imposing building, subject of recent restoration work that has brought to light several elements of the original structure.
The valuable picture gallery, set up in the former refectory hall, houses a collection of 17th-century paintings and frescoes, while the adjacent parish church is home to valuable wooden sculptures, silverware, sacred vestments and ancient volumes.
The works come from the Jesuits’ very rich collection and, in some cases, from the oldest churches in the country, reflecting the taste and choices of the local patrons.

The vault and side lunettes of the refectory have been frescoed: a large coat of arms of the Order stands out in the center of the vault, while, along the lower edges, figures of illustrious Jesuits are set within medallions framed by floral festoons. Also depicted are the Glory of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Glory of St. Francis Xavier.
Inside the College we can admire a collection of wooden statues in estofado de Oro from the 17th century and, in the parish priest’s apartments, the retable of St. Christopher, attributed to the Master of Oliena active in the 16th century.

Santa Maria Assunta

The oldest church in Oliena was built between the XIII and XIV centuries, and it was the main church until 1791. The building was formerly outside the town, next to the cemetery area, and it has been altered many times, radically changing its appearance. Restorations made in the 90s brought back many original elements, like pointed arches outside, which were the access to the side chapels, while inside, they tried to recover the original walls.

The eight chapels would have each wooden altarpiece, now lost. Some parts of them were recovered from a private collection in Rome, while the church of Sant’Ignazio holds the altarpiece of Saint Christopher (1530/1535) by the Master of Oliena. Today, the church hosts a giant painting of Liliana Cano on its leading portal, depicting the christening of John the Baptist.

San Lussorio

The church of San Lussorio dates back to the XV century. It is a small pearl with a simple facade and a bell tower. The building scheme within is gothic-catalans roots with its one nave and four bays divided by acute arches and an elevated presbytery covered by a cross vault.
The clergy gives access to the sacristy, and it holds an altar in masonry, just like the lateral banks along the churches’ walls. It is decorated with frescos depicting architectural elements, framing niches with the saint’s statue.
Today the church is enriched by frescos of Liliana Cano, who is very attached to the town. This church had the convent of the minor priests of San Francesco in town from 1640 to 1644.

Santa Croce

The church of Santa Croce probably dates back to the XVI century, and it overlaps an already existing building which is now partially lost.
It has a simple facade with a crowing wavy section with four crosses, a fifth one on the bell tower, and a sixth one where the roof slopes converge-a single nave with spans divided by round arches.
The ceiling is made with wooden reeds. There is a 1700s wooden cross and a Statue of Christ laid shown only during the rites of the holy week.
There is also a temple shaped wooden tabernacle dating to the 1600s, enriched with small columns and the Agnus Dei.
Recent recovering efforts brought back to light some frescoes with the four evangelists in the clergy.
The fount at the entrance seems to be quite old, made from a coarse basalt cylinder.
The church used to host the oratory of the Santa Croce confraternity, founded in 1588 upon order of the archbishop of Cagliari.

Nostra Signora della Pietà

Sometimes, country churches and their celebrations were – and still are – important places of sociability where to meet people and make new friendships between the people of different towns. Often, buildings were surrounding the church, known in Sardinia as humbressias, which were used to shelter the peregrines coming from nearby.

One of the most suggestive ones (although not presenting any humbressias) is within the park of Su Gologone, near the namesake spring. The unmistakable facade has an element of twin volutes and a bell tower. Within, two bays are separated by pointed arches.

Santa Lucia

Along the road leading to the Lanaitho Valley, near the Church of St. John, lay the impressive ruins of the country Church of St. Lucy, an ancient religious building, the earliest evidence of which dates back to 1495.

The structure is made of stone cantons of different colors and sizes, supported by lateral and oblique buttresses. The single nave is divided into four irregular bays separated by pointed arches and ends in a cross-vaulted presbytery. A masonry altar still stands on the end wall.

Although the building is now in ruins, lacking its original wooden roofing, the remains still restore the elegance and charm that the building had in the past.

San Giovanni

Located near the spring of Su Gologone, the ancient sanctuary of St. John has been known to sources since at least the 16th century. Its facade – with a horizontal finial and a portal surmounted by a small oculus, devoid of sloping roofs and a bell tower – gives the structure a rather characteristic appearance in its simplicity.

The buttresses on the outer sides punctuate the three barrel-vaulted bays inside, separated by the round arches of the single hall. The presbytery houses a masonry altar within which is a statue of the saint, set in a niche adorned with two small columns and surmounted by a tympanum.

In the courtyard adjacent to the building, festivities for the saint still take place, culminating in the celebration on June 24th. Here, an ancient, robust olive tree offers cool shelter from the summer heat with its broad foliage.

Nostra Signora di Monserrato

Situated in a picturesque setting at the foot of a hill, the Church of Our Lady of Montserrat boasts origins dating back to 1543, as evidenced by the tuff inscription at the entrance. The current layout, built in 1856 on the ruins of the 16th-century building, preserves the sacristy and probably the semicircular shape of the apse from the original structure. The facade, characterized by a bell gable with two pinnacles and a small central arch, leads into the single nave divided into three bays by pointed arches, while the presbytery, with a semi-circular apse, is covered by a semi-dome.

The interior houses the statue of the Black Madonna, inspired by the famous one from the sanctuary of Montserrat in Catalonia. The sacristy, accessible from the presbytery, has a Gothic-Aragonese cross vault whose recent restoration revealed trachyte ribs and ancient frescoes with floral decorations as well as a sun symbol.

The Church is part of a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary, surrounded by cumbessias, the traditional housing structures that housed pilgrims during the novena for the festivities that culminate on September 8th with the feast day dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat.

Beata Vergine del Carmelo

The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is located in the upper part of the village on a small, steep esplanade. The facade is characterized by a bell gable made of exposed red brick ending in an arch; a gabled structure that fits harmoniously into the architectural and landscape context of the area.

Its foundation dates back to 1619, but today the interior of the building consists of two bodies clearly distinguishable by layout and construction elements. The front part presents a hall with a wooden trussed ceiling and hooded ceiling separated from the sacred space by a round arch. The presbytery, on the other hand, is characterized by a hipped barrel vault roof with two lunettes on each side and a 20th-century altar.

Nostra Signora di Buoncammino

The Church of Our Lady of Buoncammino stands near the ancient district of Sa Tiria on an elevated position that gives the structure a distinctive presence.

The facade of the Church is distinguished by its very simple lines and a bell gable with three openings.

The interior is characterized by a single nave divided into three bays, leading to the simple altar located at the back. The latter is embellished by a niche housing the statue of the Virgin Mary, a central element of the worship and devotion of the faithful. However, the church has undergone restoration works over time that have altered part of its original appearance and raised doubts as to their appropriateness.

These alterations have partly compromised the aesthetic integrity of the building, though not undermining its spiritual value and religious function within the community.

The Church of Our Lady of Buoncammino remains an important place of faith for the inhabitants of Oliena, a symbol of Marian devotion and a spiritual reference point despite the challenges of preserving its architectural heritage.

San Giuseppe

Built in the 17th century and located in the ancient district of Sa Banditta, the Church of St. Joseph is distinguished by its simplicity and robustness. A ribbed bell tower characterizes the facade, while the massive external buttresses support the round arches and sloping roof of the building inside, giving the structure an imposing presence in the landscape context.

The single nave, divided into three bays by the aforementioned round arches, ends in the presbytery, where the altar houses a niche containing the statue of St. Joseph. The stucco decoration in the form of a shell on the altar, an artistic element typical of the Baroque style, is not a mere aesthetic detail but represents a symbol of protection and welcome, typical attributes of St. Joseph, guardian and protector.

Nostra Signora d'Itria

The Church of Our Lady of Itria, located next to the parish Church of Saint Ignatius, probably dates back to the late 16th century and may have originally been dedicated to Saint Bernardine. The presence of a confraternity dedicated to the Virgin of Itria, established on May 28th, 1613, underlines the historical and spiritual value of this church within the community.

The Baroque building features a facade with double volutes and an ornate bell gable. Baroque decorative elements are also visible on the Aragonese architrave above the entrance door and on the frame of a window on the left side.

The interior has a single nave with two bays separated by pointed arches and a ceiling of wooden beams and reeds. The presbytery is divided into two barrel-vaulted rooms with stucco decorations, cherubs and a 17th-century fresco depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin and the twelve apostles.

The interior houses the statue of the Madonna venerated in the Easter Day procession, dressed in elegant brocade garments, and the statue of St. Bernadine, accompanied by Franciscan and Jesuit symbols.


The Church of St. Anne, built in the 17th century, originally stood outside the town, in an area that was considered peripheral at the time.

The facade, whose main distinguishing element is a bell gable, is of great simplicity. The building has a single nave divided into two bays separated by pointed arches.

Worthy of mention is the typically 17th-century masonry altar, adorned with a niche surrounded by four twisted columns and concluded with a flame-shaped decoration.

Saint Anne is traditionally considered the patron saint of women in labor, and her veneration is deeply rooted in Oliena’s popular religiosity. Young women would offer their long tresses on the altar of the Saint, in the hope of obtaining the gift of fertility; she was also invoked to help bread rise. The devotion towards her is testified by the ancient legend according to which on a rock, located in the area of Masiloghi and object of popular veneration, the Saint is said to have left the imprint of her hand and elbow, a must for pilgrims returning from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat.

San Francesco da Paola

Built in the 16th century together with the convent, it was the venue of the Order of the Minims of St Francis of Paola until the suppression decreed by Charles Emmanuel III in 1767. The church was initially located on the outskirts of the town while today it is fully integrated into the urban fabric.

The facade, characterized by great simplicity, is surmounted by a large bell gable with three holes. The interior consists of a single nave, covered by a corbelled ceiling of wooden beams, divided into four bays by pointed arches. Two arched openings lead to the presbytery giving access to a side room.

At the height of the last bay on the right is a chapel with a hipped barrel vault, embellished with 18th-century frescoes.

A Latin inscription on the altar of the chapel recalls the restoration work carried out in the first half of the 18th century, following the wishes of the priest Giovanni Bernardino Sanna Manca.

The rooms of the small monastery are an integral part of the structure and bear witness to the rich religious and community history of the place. Even today, the church continues to witness important moments in the community and spiritual life of the village: on Easter Day, the procession with the simulacrum of the Virgin Mary leaves from here to meet the simulacrum of the risen Christ, coming from the Church of Santa Croce, to meet in the evocative rite of s’Incontru in Piazza Santa Maria.

La Vergine di Bonaria

The Church of Our Lady of Bonaria, just outside the town, stands on a hill to the east that offers an exceptional viewpoint with a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains.

The building, once the residence of the Mercederian friars, is very simple but with some architectural peculiarities. On the facade, it has a bell gable that culminates in a small arch, while on the left side only, there are solid buttresses.

The entrance to the church is raised above the surrounding ground by five steps. The interior is divided into two bays, separated by steps on different levels; four more oblique steps lead to the presbytery, creating an interesting trick of volumes and perspectives.

Birthplace of Father Solinas

Father John Anthony Solinas was born in this ancient building in 1643 and spent his entire childhood here before entering the Society of Jesus in 1663.
The Christian martyr is still revered by his fellow citizens as a model of holiness and dedication.
The birthplace in which Father Solinas lived with his family, well-to-do and of noble extraction, was larger and included several small buildings, traces of which remain in the southwest wall of adjacent buildings.
Of the original building, dating back to at least the first half of the 17th century, small renovated rooms are now preserved, owned by the municipality, spread over two floors and used for exhibitions and displays.
The present building has a rectangular plan and is characterized by an exterior granite staircase ramp that provides access to the upper floor while the ground floor is configured as a low arched loggia.
The main facade, treated in smooth white plaster, has sparse, small openings. The pitched roof is made with tiles that protrude from the masonry to allow rainwater to drain away and thus avoid wetting the walls.

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