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Sant'Antioco and Byssus


The island of Sant'Antioco, unlike other islands, can be easily reached without the need for a ferry. In fact, the island is connected to the coastal hinterland of the other 'major' island, Sardinia, by a thin artificial isthmus 5 km long, made up of marine sediments, and at the end by a bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you arrive in the town of the same name, which stands on the ruins of the ancient Phoenician-Punic and later Roman city of Sulky-Sulci. The name of town and island comes from the Holy Martyr Antiochus, Patron Saint of Sardinia, deported to 'Sulci' in the 2nd century A.D. as a result of Roman persecution. He was a Mauritanian doctor who, starting from the Sulci coast, contributed with his preaching to spreading Christianity throughout Sardinia.

The city of Sant'Antioco offers visitors various opportunities for recreation, particularly of a historical/cultural nature thanks to the numerous open-air archaeological sites, from the Punic necropolis to the highly relevant museums present in the city. One of the first museums to visit and easily accessible via the Lungomare Colombo promenade, is certainly the Sea and Shipwrights Museum followed by the Museo Archeologico “Ferruccio Barreca” (Archaeological Museum 'Ferruccio Barreca') and the adjacent archaeological open area of the Phoenician period of ancient Sulky, the Tofet or TophetIn this area, cinerary urns, more than 3,000 in number, containing burnt bones of children who were stillborn or died of natural causes at an early age and of animals, have been recovered. Next of interest is the Ethnographic Museum and the adjoining archaeological area also known as 'Sa arroga de is gruttas', represented by the underground village formed by Punic tombs. Also not to be missed is the Fortino Sabaudo, also known as 'Forte Su Pisu', and the nearby Basilica of Sant'Antioco Martire, built on the Saint's tomb, and the catacombs below. Two festivals in honour of the patron saint of Sardinia are worth mentioning: the first 15 days after Easter and the second on 1 August.

The Basilica and Catacombs of St Antiochus Martyr

Not far from the Basilica of Sant'Antioco Martire, you will find the Byssus Workshop/Museum of Master Chiara Vigo. This exceptional woman claims to be the world's last witness and custodian of the working of byssus, the silk of the seaThe precious fabric, once worn by priests and kings, is obtained through a long and patient processing of a burr produced by the “Pinna Nobilis”, a large bivalve marine mollusc that lives in the bottom of the Sant'Antioco lagoon and is up to a metre and a half high. It is in danger of extinction and for this reason it is protected by a European and a regional law. This substance made up of keratin, like that of hair, on contact with water, solidifies and produces a sort of beard with which the mollusc anchors itself to the seabed; once it has been worked and bleached, it becomes byssus, shiny like gold, soft and strong. Silk works from the sea can only be donated or received. A byssus master lives on offerings.

Byssus embroidery, in the hands of Master Chiara Vigo

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