A doctor specialized in physiology and neurology as well as a writer, Paolo Mategazza (1831-1910) gave a beautiful description of the oldest and largest Romanesque church in Sardinia when he said, “The roof of the San Gavino Basilica in Porto Torres is just like a poem”.
Mategazza was a famous intellectual from Monza, and wrote dozens of books; one in particular, “Profili e paesaggi della Sardegna” (Milan, 1870), seems to steer away from his usual scientific interests and instead guides us to sites such as this church, which holds the mortal remains of 4th-century martyrs Saint Gavinus, Saint Protus, and Saint Januarius.
He writes, “You stand where the ancient Torres used to be, one of the major old cities on the island. You see the gigantic ruins of the Temple of Fortuna emerge from the canes of the marsh; the locals call it ‘Palace of the Barbarian King’ in dialect. They took some magnificent columns away from those glorious ruins, to use them in the San Gavino Basilica with others of Roman origin. Now there are twenty-eight columns in different styles and every type of stone – from granite to white, gray, and ‘cipollino’ marble. The roof of the Basilica is just like a poem, and worthy of being held up by those columns because it is completely made of immense juniper beams, which you could never find on the island today…”
Beautiful words for a beautiful cathedral.