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The Basilica of Our Lady Bonaria and the Sanctuary - situated on the peak of the hill called with the same name - are linked with the Monastery of the Order of Mercedar monks, committed to redemption of slaves. The whole complex rise on the hill with a large stairway leading up to it.
The Sanctuary was built by the Aragonese (on the hill that constituted their general quarters) between 1324 and 1326 during the siege to the Castle in which the Pisan had took shelter. The current facade dates from 1895 and it has a small Gothic portal. Inside, the Sanctuary has elegant Gothic-Aragonese structures and houses a wooden statue of the Madonna, which - according to the legend - was found in 1370 on the shore below the Sanctuary. It is believed that the statue was being transported on a Spanish ship navigating from Spain to Italy that was shipwrecked in a storm at sea; the ship's crew found themselves in dramatic conditions and were constrained to threw off by the ship all of its cargo including the case with the Madonna statue. That very moment, the storm calmed down and the crew was saved from sinking. Then, the waves carried the statue to the shore, landing at the feet of the Bonaria hill. There, it was found by the Mercedar monks; nowadays, there is still a small column in the yard in front of the church that recalls this place of miracle.

The Madonna of Bonaria used to be a very worshiped patron saint for sailors. The Sanctuary has became a destination for numerous pilgrimages. The statue is carried in procession on a ship in July when the Madonna of Bonaria holy day is celebrated.
This place in Cagliari gives its name to Buenos Aires. The Spanish that founded Buenos Aires visited the church of Bonaria (it means fair winds, buenos aires in Catalan) and asked for help from Mary of Bonaria, to whom the church is dedicated.

The offerings of believers to Mary of Bonaria – mainly ex-votos – form a museum collection, recently arranged in new and modern premises. In the first room there are finds from the Hill of Bonaria. Already well-known in the Pre-Nuragic and Phoenician ages, the hill was the seat of a Late Punic and Roman necropolis. The first part of the collection also reconstructs the history of the Castle of Bonaria and that of the Order of Maria della Mercede, present in Sardinia since the early XIV century.
The cloister of the convent is home to the Marinery Museum. In the cloister corridor, small votive pictures are exposed – mainly with maritime subjects and dating back to the XVIII-XIX centuries – as well as votive offerings from believers who were saved from slavery or shipwrecks. Along the corridor, one can notice the higher part of a (barrel vaulted) cistern excavated in the rock and used by the friars of the convent until the beginning of last century. The second room contains an exposition of the most ancient and precious ship models owned by the Sanctuary – altogether there are nearly 150 of them. They form an important historical anthology of naval art, from the age of galleys through the steamships up to the innovations adopted in the most modern ships. This room also contains the mummified bodies of some members of the noble Alagon family, dead of plague in 1605 and buried near the Sanctuary. Finally, the silver anchor offered by Queen Margherita in 1899, to thank for the happy conclusion of the North Pole expedition led by her son, Duke of Abruzzi, on the ship named “Stella polare” (Polar Star). In the third room there are the treasure of the Sanctuary and some precious church ornaments offered by monarchs and other eminent personalities. Among such offerings, the golden crowns given by King Carlo Emanuele I and his consort, very precious vestments offered by noblewomen and the gifts from two Popes: Pius XI and Paul VI.


The monumental cemetery of Bonaria rises on the hill of the same name, very near the remains of a necropolis in an area previously used in the Punic, Roman and early Christian times.
The area just below is an open air necropolis with tombs dating to the era of Imperial Rome covered with flat roof tile or in sarcophagi. They have recently discovered 17 tomb rooms which, although in poor condition, have enabled researchers to study the original construction techniques.
This area below has revealed a piece of the imperial roman necropolis in which points to the co-existence of the rites of burial and those of cremation. Of particular interest is a small square based building with a limestone bench next to urns for the ashes of the dead, presumably for the celebration of rites tied to the cult of the dead.

The Bonaria cemetery was inaugurated on the first day of January 1829. Prior to this date, Cagliari buried its dead in or around its churches, often causing serious public health problems. Already during the cholera epidemic in 1816 it had become urgent to find areas near the town for burials, thus the need for a large cemetery was particularly felt.

Just thirty years after its inauguration the cemetery was found to be insufficient, and for this reason was commissioned a first enlargement. This was followed by still others which extended the cemetery to the top of the hill. A special area was set aside for non-Catholics religions.
The enlargement led to the destruction of many of the original tombs of the necropolis of Karales, dating back to the period between the late Republican era and early Medieval times.
However, in 1888 a vast zone of the ancient Necropolis was discovered.
The architecture of these tombs is characterised by simple, rectangular or circular chambers with access through a small underground passage.
Fascinating remains were discovered inside the chambers, including frescos with images of a religious nature, various types of vases and the bones of small courtyard animals.
The largest structure of the Necropolis is a mausoleum, which was originally painted red. The remains found inside are believed to belong to one single family.
Excavation work uncovered 32 human remains in the Necropolis, most of which were buried according to the inhumation rite, while others were cremated.

Today, the Bonaria cemetery is an immense open-air art gallery with sculptures by artists who worked in Cagliari from the second half of the 19th to the first decades of the 20th century. In this exceptional gallery we can find a unique variety of styles, from the neoclassic to realism, symbolism and Art Nouveau. This variegated artistic production reflects quite well the tastes of the town’s inhabitants at the end of the 19th century, which was lively and economically active.

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