TOWN and ITS SURROUNDING AREA
The town of Mamoiada can
be reached from Cagliari, Sassari, Oristano and Olbia via Highway 131 and then
the 131 turnoff to Nuoro, the Province’s chief town. From there, just get onto the new
Freeway 389 towards Lanusei and Tortolì and the small town of Mamoiada is about
15 km away.
Mamoiada is a charming hillside town with a population of
about 2,700, located at 650 meters above sea level. Its entire area barely covers 4,900
hectares of pastureland rich with livestock and numerous vineyards, which
sustain its most thriving primary industries, which feature the production of
excellent wines and cheeses.
Mamoiada’s history, between 550BC and 238BC (when the
Carthaginians invaded Sardinia) and in the centuries following, coincides with
that of a "proud mountain people, always defiant against foreign domination". Ancient archive documents refer to
different versions of its name, i.e., Marmoiada, Mamoyata, Mamujata and in
recent times, Mamojada.
Around the Eleventh Century, Mamoiada was part of the Giudicato di Arborea and subsequently of
Ollolai’s Curatoria della Barbagia [curatorship/administration].
During the long period of Aragonese-Spanish domination
(1324-1720), Ferdinand V, the King of Spain, assigned Mamoiada and other towns
in the Nuoro area to Pietro Massa of Arborea.
Then in 1604, the town became part of the Duchy of Mandas, a fief
originally belonging to the Mazza family and subsequently, the Tellez-Giron.
In 1820, during Savoy domination, Feudalism formally
ceased with the issue of the “Editto
delle Chiudende” [edict on enclosures], which permitted the allocation of
land to the local population, even though for various reasons, these allocations
were in fact nearly all redeemed by the town’s nobles.
With the end of the Sardinian-Piedmontese reign in 1847
and the subsequent Unification of Italy, Mamoiada, together with the other towns
in Sardinia and on the mainland, adapted to the new political situation and the
various socio-economic developments and changes, which are still ongoing.
Locally hand-made and genuinely wholesome products
include its bread - the harasau, its
cheeses and a vast range of typical local cakes and biscuits. The quality of the Biancu and Nigheddu wines
Mamoiada’s craft industry produces antique furniture
and its traditional chests, together with the now-famous Mamuthones costumes, which can only be obtained from the town’s
few master craftsmen who continue to work in their small workshops, just like
the ceramic miniatures and full reproductions of the Mamuthones and Issohadores.
Just 5 Km away from Mamoiada is the Saints Cosmas and
Damien Shrine. Since it dates back
to the Seventh Century AD, some researchers believe it to be the oldest in the
Barbagia area. Inside the church
there is a seventeenth century niche in pink trachyte and some Byzantine-style
frescos. Its walls feature 14
well-made glazed ceramic panels depicting the Way of the Cross, which were
created at the Alcora factory in Castellon de la Plana, Spain during the second
half of the eighteenth century by the artist, Jacinto Causada. On Good Friday in 1998, the entire world was able to admire
these same panels when they featured in the “Via Crucis” proceedings
officiated by Pope John Paul II at the Colosseum in Rome.
Symbolizing Mamoiada from an architectural point of view
is the Church of Our Lady of Loreto, which is situated in the town centre and
probably dates back to mediaeval times.
Mamoiada has vast areas of archaeological interest. Since there is substantial evidence of
very ancient civilizations in the area, it must be concluded that human
settlement in this town dates back to very distant times, i.e., XV-XIII Century
The numerous Nuraghi
are linear in structure and are mainly situated in the most fertile areas where
water is available. The ruins of
villages are still evident around some of the Nuraghi and where these are missing, it is assumed they were
destroyed in the process of fencing off the fields. Some examples are: “Arràilo” in the sa Pruna area on the road to Orani; “Monte Juradu” on the road
to Sarule and “Orgurù” on the road to Fonni.
There are also numerous small tombs dug in granite called the “Domus de
Janas”, which date back to the Neolithic-Prenuraghic period. These can be found on the outskirts of
the town at a location called “Mazzozzo”; near the country church called
“Loret’attesu” at “Garaunele” on the local road to Oliena; at a
location called “S’Eredadu” and in other spots. Particularly interesting is a group of 6
“domos” known as the “Sas Honcheddas”
at “Istevene” along Highway 389 to Fonni.
Within the third “domo”, sculpted in relief on a rectangular column
is the outline of the head of a bull, which is regarded as a symbol of strength
and fertility. There are also
several “Menhirs” or Perdas Longas,
which are considered to be cult objects.
In recent times, i.e., March 1997, some rare stones were
discovered. One example is a superb
unclassified monolith, which is unique in its kind because of its height
(6.50m). Also found was a large
granite “Menhir” statue known as “Sa
Perda Pintà”, which measures 2.67m x 2.10m and probably dates back to the
third millennium before Christ. What
distinguishes this latter monolith is that it features a series of cupels and
concentric engravings, which make it unique in its kind in Italy. It appears that a similar monolith has
been found in England. (*)
Until about two centuries ago, many of the archaeological
sites must have been pretty much intact. The
subsequent destruction and “dismantling” of entire sites or single shafts, perdas longas and more did not
specifically occur because of vandalism or the construction of boundary walls.
Quoted below in the original language and including any
printing errors is a brief passage from the “Dizionario
Geografico-Storico-Statistico-Commerciale” [Geographic, Historical,
Statistical and Commercial Dictionary] of the States of His Majesty the King of
Sardinia, compiled by Professor Goffredo Casalis at the beginning of 1800s,
which refers to Mamoiada’s “relics”.
«…up there on the boundaries
with the slopes of Orgosolo and in the next area close to the slopes of Orani
known as Venatieri large
pyramid-shaped monoliths can be seen erect on the ground, of the same type that
in other regions are called Pedras Fittas
and that number three with the biggest one in the middle. The first of suchlike monuments to be considered by me was
the first. Before that day no other
writer had ever considered them.
Anyone who has ever seen
the Celtic stones known as Men-hir,
which in the language of the Bretons means Stones (men) long (hir), on the shores of the Carnac
(Morbihan, France) and then sees these Sardinian monoliths, which many call Pietre-fitte [Embedded-stones], because
they are embedded into the ground and others call them Long Stones, will be able to recognize
the great and nearly total similarity of such obelisks of the two towns in
question, both in shape and from other points of view. However, in Sardinia these stones are
located far away from each other and always in sets of three, two of which are
smaller than the third whilst those in Brittany occur much more frequently, so
much so that one could think they were monuments to the dead on top of the
burial place of distinguished persons. Also,
they are all the same height, which is the same as the average height of the
Sardinians’ Long Stones.
Gullible country folk in
many parts of Brittany maintain that at certain times of the year, goblins they
call the cornandous appear in the
moonlight and do a diabolical dance around the menhir and in the silence of the night, their strident voices are
heard calling travelers who they try to lure by tinkling some gold. Equally, some strange opinions regarding
these monuments are held amongst the Sardinian mountain people. There are those who believe that devils
have treasures stored under those stones and that one cannot get to them as a
thief, other than when it’s a Holy Year and the bad spirits are prevented from
defending them. It was in the year
of the General Jubilee that the Embedded Stones were toppled in many places,
including one in the Mamojada area.>>
(*) A detailed description of all the
archaeological sites in the Mamoiada area, together with photographs, location
charts and drawings are contained in a book called “Magic Stones in Mamoiada” by Giacobbe Manca and
Giacomino Zirottu, sponsored by the Municipal Administration and edited by the
“C. Atzeni” Association – Printers: Studiostampa - Nuoro.
FAIRS and FESTIVALS
fairs and festivals are held in Mamoiada during the year. Amongst these are the agro-food and
local crafts fairs and the local Saints’ days in honor of Saints Cosmas and
Damian, Saint Sebastian, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Madonna of the Snow (N.S. de Loreta attesu). In the past, locals felt very strongly
about “Santu Sidore” (Saint
Isidore) and his feast day, which was one of the biggest and most eagerly
awaited, was celebrated until the sixties.
the festivals the people of Mamoiada still hold very dear is that in honor of Sant’Antoni (Saint Anthony the Abbot),
which is held on 16-17 January each year originated in remote ancient times as an expiatory rite in favor of the new
harvest year. The celebrations
begin on the evening of 16 January (sa die
de su Pesperu) with the kindling and benediction of the fire outside the
parish church. The faithful walk
around the fire reciting the Apostles’ Creed three times. Tradition dictates that each section of
the town then lights its own fire with an ember taken from the main one in honor
of the Saint. The people in every
section of the town gather around their large votive fires.
a moment of great social participation, which is also extended to the foreign
visitors staying in every neighborhood and to whom good wine and local sweet
products of the season are offered.
during this festival that the sos Mamuthones
and sos Issohadores appear for the
first time during the year.
contrary, the festival in honor of Saints Cosmas and Damian represents the end
of the agricultural harvest year. It
is held 6 kilometers outside the town in the country shrine named after these
Saints. During the summer season,
numerous pilgrims attend this shrine, where it is possible to stay in the
picturesque hùmbessias that surround
the church. The celebrations in honor of the two
Saints, which are held at the end of September, are brought to a close with
religious, musical and local folkloric events.
Sardinia’s most ancient popular festivals rich with folklore is the CARNEVALE MAMOIADINO [Mamoiada’s Mardi
Gras or pre-Lenten celebrations]. It’s
a simple and meager event in the sense that it lacks the usual sophisticated
symbolic floats featuring papier-mâché characters and other modern masquerades
but it is also amongst the most charming and authentic.
Mamoiada pours into the main piazza to
dance the traditional passu torrau and
sartiu to the sound of the organetto [diatonic accordion] untiringly,
for hours and hours. Nothing is
affected or imported, other than, of course, the tourists who each year arrive
in ever growing numbers from every part of the world to witness this genuine
spectacle. Many stay with the local
families (contact the Associazione
Pro-Loco [local tourism association] to enquire about availability).
parading and dancing, men and women dressed in traditional costume offer
everyone locally-made sweet products.
everyone’s attention is really drawn to what is the symbol of this Carnevale, the Mamuthones and Issohadores
who fascinate and involve the crowd with their parading to the tune of their
rhythmical “music”. They move
spontaneously, without interrupting the composure of their dance. They are the real masters of the
residents of Mamoiada maintain that, «Without the Mamuthones and the Issohadores,
there is no Carnevale ».
symbol of Mamoiada’s Carnevale is the other classic mask called the Juvanne Martis, which represents Fat
Tuesday [or Mardi Gras] and is placed on a cart and surrounded by a limited
circle of “relatives” crying over the death of the last day of Carnevale.
At the end of the three days of dancing and parades in the
piazza, the people present are offered the local dish of broad beans with pork
accompanied by the excellent local wine.
THE MEDITERRANEAN MASK MUSEUM
Museo delle Maschere Mediterranee,
which opened at the end of 2001, is located on the first floor of a building in Piazza Europa already being used by the
Town Council as a library on the ground floor.
The Museum was founded with the aim of establishing a contact point
between the cultural universe of a small Sardinian inland town like Mamoiada,
which is famous throughout the world for its traditional masks, the Mamuthones
and Issohadores, and other Mediterranean regions, which through the events and
costumes of Carnevale, share a common history and culture. The Museum mainly focuses on the types
of mask where there is a recurring use of wooden, zoomorphic and grotesque face
masks in a vast variety of combinations, sheep and ram skins, cowbells and
devices that produce a deafening sound in general.
It used to be felt that these masks, which were part of the shepherd and
farming communities, had the power to influence the outcome of the agricultural
harvest. It is for this reason that,
in spite of their frightful appearance, their visits were welcome and eagerly
awaited as an opportunity to fraternize by offering them food and drink. Beginning with masks in the Mamoiada
tradition, the Museum offers a comparative range of exhibits from various
Mediterranean countries, highlighting their similarities and closeness to each
other rather than any differences or gaps between them.
The Museum is unique in its genre since what it has on offer is partly
classic, i.e., the masks from various Mediterranean countries and with the aid
of Information and Communication
Technology tools, it is also
infrastructure is capable of facilitating exchange programs mutual cooperation
with museums, cultural institutions and associations operating in this field.
The Museum is unique due to its Multivision
Room where, thanks to its twelve diaprojectors, visitors are able to relive
the salient moments of the Mamuthones and
Issohadores parades, starting from the Feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot on
17 January through to the picturesque Carnevale
The masks can be viewed in the more traditional and informative manner in
the exhibition area.
In one corner, on a platform carved out of local rock, are two complete Mamuthone masks and one complete Issohadore mask. Radiating from this are two exhibition
platforms. To the right there are
other masks, this time from the Carnevale
Barbaricino (from Ottana and Orotelli) and to the left, there are masks from
other countries in the Mediterranean Basin, such as Greece, Slovenia, Croatia
and the Alpine arc.
From Tuesday to Sunday
From 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.
from 3.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.
The Museum is operated by a small management
"Viseras" s.r.l. Piazza
Europa, 15 - 08024 MAMOIADA (Nu)
VAT N. 01128700919
Tel. 0784/569018 - Fax
Translated from the Italian by Adriana Ferrigno JP, MAUSIT, MAIOP
Sarda © 1997-2005 - Associazione Culturale Ciberterra - Responsabile: Giorgio Plazzotta