Domus de Janas Sant'Andrea Priu, Bonorva, Province of Sassari, Sardegna, Italy

The Domus de Janas in Sant'Andrea Priu near Bonorva is one of the main of its kind in Sardinia. A neolithic necropolis of about 3000 BC, was used by following cultures and the largest tomb was made into a church in Christian times and covered with frescoes.
Domus de Janas Sant'Andrea Priu - Sardegna How to reach it: By car, Bonorva can be reached from Sassari or Cagliari through the SS 131, then proceeding towards the village of Bono for about 6km; at this point take a dirt road to the right, leading to the church of Santa Lucia; past the church, after about 500 mt is the archeological site. Escorted visits are possible contacting a local cooperative, the Società Cooperativa Costaval in Bonorva (cellphone +39 348 5642611).

The Domus de Janas (meaning house of fairies, or of goddess Diana) also called in the Sardinian language forrus or forreddus are sepulchres excavated in the rock, consisting often of different rooms connected through a common wide entrance and corridor, forming underground an necropolis.

These constructions, either isolated or grouped together even in great numbers, are found all over Sardinia; so far at least 2,400 have been recorded, but many more are still to be excavated.

fresco Domus de Janas in Sant’Andrea Priu Domus de Janas in Sant’Andrea Priu The bull monolith
The Domus were built between 4000 and 2000 BC, typically on rocky soil, and reproducing in scale 1:2 real-life houses of the time; they have doors and windows, and walls were often decorated with geometrical or magical motifs, and are ascribed to the Ozieri Culture - or San Michele Culture - from the name of the grotto of San Michele near Ozieri, where the most relevant findings are recorded. The Ozieri religion was deeply connected with nature and worshipped the Goddess Mother and the Moon, symbols of female fertility, and the Sun and the Bull as symbols of male strength. The people of this period were peaceful farmers, not shepherds as future settlers, and most probably originated from the Cyclades Islands in Greece.

Excavated in a rocky plateau about 10 mt high and pointing to the East, include about 20 separate constructions and can be dated between 3200 and 2800 BC. The majority consist of just one cell, but three of them comprise more cells: the "Tomba del Capo", the "Tomba a capanna circolare" and the "Tomba a camera". The complex was used for thousands of years, and theTomba del Capo consisting of a labyrinth of 18 rooms, grouped around two main locals, was re-used as place of worship in the Christian era. The domus are numbered with Roman numerals (V, VII, VIII, etc) and some of them are presently inaccessible after a landslide of the rock wall. In the entrances of all the tombs are circular holes excavated in the floors, called "coppelle", where offers were laid to the spirits of important deceased members of the community, sacrifices were performed, and people also slept to get in touch with the dead ancestors and obtain advice and predictions. On the hill crest over the tombs a monolith rock, 2 meters tall, was sculpted in the form of a huge bull.

The Domus I, V, VI, and VIII were still used as sepulchres in the Byzantine period while the Domus II, III, IX were re-used also as dwellings. The inhabitants of the settlements had probably their own houses below the rocky spur where the Domus de Janas are situated, though remains have yet to be found.

The Tomba del Capo, with a surface are of over 250 sq mt, is among the largest in the whole Mediterranean area. Already in Roman times it was changed into a church, and frescoed with stories of the life of Virgin Mary, Christ and the Apostles. It is commonly believed that in the early Middle Ages, starting from the 6th century AD a group of hermit monks, probably of Greek origin, settled in the caves, and the largest Domus was their church. The 3 larger locals of this Domus lead one into the other, the first, called narthex, was reserved for those who were not yet baptised, the second was for the baptised, while the third was for the priests. The middle one is covered with early-Christian frescos, dated between the 4th and 6th century AD, with an upper band decorated with birds and geometrical motifs, while on the left wall is a female figure facing the visitors and showing the cross on top of the passage into the third large room, whose walls are completely covered with paintings, dated about 750 AD: on the left there are scenes from the life of Jesus, sided by God's blessing hand, peacocks and the tiding to the shepherds; on the wall opposite the entrance is a figure of Christ in a blessing attitude, while to the right are the images of St. John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and five more apostles and saints.