Discover Oristano

A Stroll in the Old Town

A stroll in the old town of Oristano is equivalent to a journey deep within the many eras that the city underwent in its history, ever since its earliest times.

Along its silent streets and within the historical center’s museums, it is possible to come across live testimonies dating back to the medieval era, such as fragments of the city walls, towers, churches, monasteries, sculptures, monuments, illuminated manuscripts, altarpieces, all telling of a millenary history rich in glorious moments, but also in sad circumstances. A captivating history, accompanying any visitor along a must-see cultural full-immersion.


Portixedda Tower

The entrance to the old town can be found in via Mazzini from the smallest door of the walls, guarded by the Portixedda Tower (Portixedda means small door in local dialect), which can also be visited inside.

As you proceed along via Garibaldi you will come across the 14th century church of Santa Chiara, the palatine chapel of the rulers of the Giudicato di Arborea. The coat of arms is hanged above the door of this church, with the poles of Aragon and the uprooted tree of Arborea.


Piazza Roma

Arriving in Piazza Roma you will find the most important monumental gate still existing in the city: the Torre di Mariano II, named after the Judge (king) who had it built in 1290.

The tower is also known as Torre San Cristoforo, due to an retablo altarpiece that was formerly kept inside. The tower, about 30 meters high, can be visited all the way to its top floor, where you may enjoy a splendid view of the city.


Piazza Eleonora d'Arborea

Proceeding along Corso Umberto, called the Via Dritta (straight alley) by Oristanese people, you will reach Piazza Eleonora d’Arborea. This square owes its name to the homonymous Giudicessa (queen), who ruled between the end of the 1300s and the beginning of the 1400s. At the very center of the square stands a monument dedicated to her.

The statue represents Eleonora in royal clothes holding the Carta de Logu in her left hand. The Carta de Logu is a very important code of laws for the history of medieval and modern Sardinian law. Two bronze panels can be seen at the base of the monument, which depict Eleonora as she promulgates the Carta de Logu, and a battle scene.


The Cathedral

After walking across via Eleonora, you will reach the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

Today the basilica is presented in eighteenth-century forms, but its ancient vestiges still recount its medieval past, such as a mighty bell tower with its large ogival lancet windows and the Gothic chapels. In the one to the right of the main altar, you may admire the statue of the Beata Vergine del Rimedio, a fine example of Catalan Gothic style.


Museo Diocesano Arborense

Next to the entrance to the Cathedral is the Arborense Diocesan Museum, which can be visited for discovering, within the Sala San Pio X showroom, the artifacts of the Tesoro della Cattedrale di Oristano. The findings presented in this museum trace the city’s history through important marble and bronze fragments, sacred vestments, liturgical furnishings, illuminated books, wooden statuary, reliquaries and the Dossale from the end of the 13th century.

The Sale del Seminario (Seminary Rooms) house the archaeological and numismatic collection of the Archbishop’s Seminary, while temporary and thematic exhibitions are offered in the Gallery of Exhibitions, alternately displaying the historical and artistic heritage of the various areas of the archdiocese, and those of other areas of the island.


The Church of San Francesco

Only a few steps away from the Cathedral, you may find the church of the conventual minor friars’s monastery. The church of San Francesco was rebuilt in the 19th century, but on Via Sant’Antonio, a portion of its ancient facade characterized by pointed arches tells us of its Gothic origins.

For centuries the church has hosted one of the most important crucifixes in Sardinia, the Christ of Nicodemus. The time of arrival of this simulacrum in Oristano is not known, nor where and by which master it was made. Its strongly expressionist style places it within the context of painful Gothic crucifixes, dating back to the fourteenth century. In the 16th century, the crucifix was inserted in the altarpiece of the Santo Cristo, a complex scenic-pictorial machine that can be visited in the retable room of the Antiquarium Arborense Museum.


Hospitalis Sancti Antoni

Adjacent to the church of San Francesco is the Hospitalis Sancti Antoni, the medieval hospital of the city of Oristano. In front of the original San Francesco façade, a pointed lancet window can be seen, which marks the apse of the ancient church of Sant’Antonio, today the main hall of the “Carlo Contini” Municipal Art Gallery, home of many works created by several artists from the nineteenth century onwards.

The Hospitalis is a rather active cultural center, hosting, apart from the Pinacoteca, the Municipal Library, a conference room, the Istituto Storico Arborense (our local history institute) and the Ceramics Documentation Center, which gathers rites and features concerning the art of ceramics in Oristano within one comprehensive multimedia journey.


Remains of Oristano's Medieval Walls

Continuing along via Sant’Antonio, in front of the façade of the San Mauro Abate church, the remains of the medieval wall circuit can be seen up close. The walls used to have a perimeter of over two kilometers. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, thanks to the work of Giudice Mariano II, the city of Oristano came to define itself in its identity and urban configuration, with a cultural influence of Tuscan origin, inspired in its structure by the Maritime Republic of Pisa.

The wall circuit was strengthened by crenellated defensive towers at the gates and by 28 quadrilateral turrets, some still visible today in Via Mazzini, incorporated into modern buildings or persistent in private gardens.


Museo Antiquarium Arborense

Since 1992, the nineteenth-century Palazzo Parpaglia located in Piazza Corrias has been the home of the Antiquarium Arborense Museum, the most important museum in Oristano. The Antiquarium Arborense is divided into two levels: the ground floor hosts the archaeological room and the tactile museum, while the upper floor is where you can find the archaeological room, the altarpieces room, the didactic room and the room for temporary exhibitions.

The museum hosts an entire wealth of Cultural Heritage owned by the municipality, made up of private archaeological collections consisting of about 10,000 pieces, mostly pertaining to archaeological assets. The Antiquarium Arborense is one of the few museums in Sardinia fitted with an exhibition section dedicated to the blind and visually impaired.


The Church and Convent of Carmine

The name Church and Convent of Carmine refers to a a single Baroque style building complex, hosting a church and a monastery, built between 1776 and 1785. The work, attributed to Piedmontese architect Giuseppe Viana, was donated in 1782 to the Carmelite Order.

The church is built on an ovoid plan and enlivened by the insertion of four chapels and an high altar. The layout of the monastery winds around a beautiful quadrangular cloister, bordered on the sides by a path marked by a succession, for all three floors, of ribbed vaults, extending towards the west side with an alternating cadence of cross vaults. The former Carmelite convent complex is now used as a university site.