TEMPIO

by John Warre Tyndale

The Island of Sardinia

London 1849

Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street. Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty


Having crossed in this boat we followed the path to Tempio, through a deep valley at the commencement of the Limbara mountains, winding by the banks of a clear stream, where oak, plane, cork, olive, and other trees overshadowed a rich underwood of arbutus, cystus, myrtle, and honeysuckle. […]

From the valley the road ascends through scenery of great beauty […].

From the valley the road ascends through scenery of great beauty […].

It was very late when I reached Tempio, and on my arrival found a great difficulty in procuring a night’s shelter, as the king was to arrive there the next day, and consequently not a room or even a bed could be procured. My cavallante, however, insisted on my accepting the offer of his own, and “La mia casa è piccola, ma il cuore è grande”, was his repeated apology for not being able to afford me a better accommodation. His love of hospitality was indeed out of all proportion to his means of exercising it; for his house consisted of only two small rooms, one of which without any light but that of the door, served as kitchen, and general receptacle of filth and messes; the other was his sitting-room, bed-room, store-house, counting-house, and shop for the retail sale of spirits, candles, oil, soap, and every variety of grocery, and clothing material. On the inside of the counter, which was bestrewn with a mass of heterogeneous articles in chaotic confusion, was the family bed, from whence four children and the wife’s sister, were, in spite of my remonstrances, summarily ejected, to accommodate me.

The preparations for the gala of the following day brought an unusual number of customers to the shop; nevertheless, amid the reiterated entreaties of my host, and his surprise that I should shew any hesitation, I threw myself outside the bed-clothes, and after much amusement in watching their wants and purchases, I slept till daylight brought a fresh influx of the villagers, who examined my small wardrobe and toilette with no little curiosity, and without the slightest consideration of their being the personal property of the stranger who was lying on the bed close to them. […]

The arrival of the king at Tempio was an opportunity of seeing the district and town under the most favorable circumstances. The assembling of the inhabitants of the different villages to join in a general fête and holiday, is a matter of unfortunately too frequent occurrence in Sardinia; but a royal visit drew them together with very different feelings.

On the morning after my arrival, the whole town was busied in preparing for his Majesty’s reception; and by the kindness of the chiefs in authority, I was enabled to witness all the most important scenes. It was the first time that the Tempiese had ever beheld a monarch; Carlo Alberto had visited Tempio in 1829, when he was merely Principe di Savoia Carignano, and though that event was a strong shadow of royalty, and had initiated them a little into the sublime mysteries of the divine rights of kings, yet on the present occasion all eyes were strained to see a positive bona fide, real, living sovereign, and all mouths were trying to pronounce the words which they had never before essayed, “Viva il Re”.

The preparations were as extensive as the means would admit, and Tempiese ingenuity could devise on such an occasion. At an early hour the streets were planted with large boughs of trees on each side, to form an avenue; pieces of gay carpet, tapestry, and silk, were arranged and hung from the windows; the streets were swept, an operation which certainly had not been repeated since 1829.

At the entrance of the principal part of the town, were two triumphal arched through which the king had to pass to his quarters at the bishop’s palace. These triumphal arches, made of a few stripes of wood, and covered with coarse linen, were painted to represent granite, and looked so well, that it gave the Tempiese an idea of building an arch of the real material to commemorate this royal visit. They even spoke of it as a probability, which in a Sarde’s mind is an enormous step towards the accomplishment of anything. Inscriptions were fixed up in various parts of the town, and crowds were beneath them trying to read them, or having them read to them.

In other parts, the rehearsal of musicians, the assembling of the militia, the union of the different flags of the villages of Gallura, the motley groups of politicians and priests holding forth on the royal advent; the costumes of the unsophisticated peasants from the various districts, the assumption of dandyism, the foppery of half-civilised employés, and the self-satisfactory step of the man of authority, formed unitedly a scene of amusement and interest. If all this confusion and bustle took place sub dio, one may easily imagine, by comparison, the state of the interior of every house. Each host had his rooms crowded with friends and relatives from the country; the preparation of the breakfasts, dinners, and suppers, called forth the domestic talents of the hostesses, and no less attention and assiduity were displayed in robing and adorning themselves and family.

It was towards sunset when the king arrived from Terra Nova; but to convey even an idea of the scene, it is necessary to know the position of the town. Standing about 1890 feet above the level of the sea, on the Gemini plain, the access to which is by steep and beautiful valleys, it is backed on the south by the magnificent range of the Limbara mountains, and by others of an equally wild and irregular formation to the north and south-east.

The approach of the king, by the road which wound from the foot of the Limbara, was announced by the cannon of the town. By the expression, “the cannon”, is meant literally the definite article, and the substantive in the singular, for the artillery did not extend to the plural number. The salutes were therefore few and far between, and gave an idea of minute guns, or signals of distress, rather than a royal feu de joie. […]

Notwithstanding the ominous prelude, the royal cortège soon arrived. The road leading to the town was lined with the spectators, in front of whom were placed, at certain distances apart, forty-nine large standards of the different villages representing their patron saints, painted and embroidered in the brightest and gayest colours.

The procession was headed by the militia of Gallura, a body of about 200 men, dressed in their dark capote, long red cap, a double-breasted waistcoat of red velvet, and white mutande appearing between the braghi and the black gaiters. Carelessly seated on their meagre, but strong and active horses, their brightly-polished guns glistened in the beams of the setting sun, and their long and dark hair and beards gave the last touch to this Bedouin picture. Some light cavalry troops, the gens d’armerie of the country, followed; and immediately after them the king, with the Duke of Genoa and his suite.

On arriving at the gate of the town, the syndic, with the consiglieri and authorities, presented him the keys, reading to him, from a piece of paper, a set speech for the occasion.

In regard to the historical, civic, and ancient custom of delivering the keys of the city-gates to the sovereign on his arrival, Tempio had no ancient city-gate whatever, except two doors erected in the morning, and made of the same materials as the triumphal arches; and the keys of the said doors were two, both made of wood, and covered with gold and silver leaf paper. The whole farce was, however, consistently kept up. The king having received and returned the keys in due form, thanked the Tempiese authorities for the feeling address, but of which I am confident he could not hear a dozen words. His Majesty then proceeded amid the cheers and vivas of the populace, the waving of handkerchief, and every demonstration of welcome, to the bishop’s palace.

In the evening, promenades, serenades, music, and illuminations drew the whole of the population from their homes, so that the streets were almost impassable; but there was no dancing, for it was Friday; singing is not a mortal sin, dancing is. […]

A large calico obelisk, with an inscription, was illuminated by lights placed inside; the windows were lined with transparent paper lanterns, having “Viva il Re” written on them; and attached to the trees were a variety of colored balloons, also transparent and lighted up. The combined reflection of these lights brightened the dark green foliage of the newly planted shrubs, and shewed out the variety and elegance of the costumes of the wandering multitude, the female portion of which appeared in more than their usual grace and loveliness, and completed the hallucination of this fairy scene.

It is difficult to describe the dresses, so varied were they, but there seemed to be as much etiquette and caprice as at Paris or London. The upper classes adopt the Italian style, but the intermediate and lower wear the national dress.

For the women, it consists of a scarlet, blue, or green velvet jacket, fitting very tightly to the figure, the edges having a border of a different color, and sometimes brocaded. The sleeves were formerly worn open down the front seam, with silver buttons to close them when required; but this is not à-la-mode at present; and the camisola or outer doublet, of a similar character, is also laid aside by the peasantry. The petticoat, of a dark cloth, with a very bright colored border ten or twelve inches deep, is called Lu suncurinu; but when the material is fine or of silk, it acquires the title of La valdetta. The under-petticoat is also of cloth, but of a different color and quality; but both of them are very full, with countless plaitings at the waist, and, being worn outside the jacket, they consequently fall over the hips with great elegance.

The Tempiese, when she goes out, raises the suncurinu from behind, and brings it over the head with a peculiar knack and arrangement, which gives it a form and position somewhat resembling the Maltese hood; the bright broad border of the inner petticoat relieves the sober tint of the cloth; and the gay velvet-jacket peeps out with very effective brilliancy. No one seeing the suncurinu worn as a petticoat can imagine it can be so easily and elegantly metamorphosed into a hood.

The simple and elegant head-dress, su cenciu, consists of a gaily-colored silk kerchief tied into three knots triangularly, one of them fitting into the nape of the neck and the other two on the forehead. They have something of a rosette form, but so arranged as to shew the borders and fringe with a most graceful negligence, far superior to the general mode adopted in other parts of Europe where the handkerchief head-dress is in use. When in mourning, white fillets are worn, somewhat similar to those of nuns. […]

It would be as impossible as useless to describe the various costumes of the different villages assembled on this occasion; but Tempio, on this festival, united more brilliancy, elegance, and originality of dress, than I have seen in any country. The next morning was devoted to a royal chase; and in the evening, dancing and other amusements were kept up till a very late hour.

On Sunday the programme of the day was, Mass and Te Deum, Bersaglio and Graminatogjiu. The two former need hardly be mentioned, save that it was a fine field-day for the ecclesiastics, who went through their manoeuvres with great precision and order, and to the perfect satisfaction of their regal commander-in-chief of the church of Sardinia.

The Bersaglio, or shooting-match, took place outside the town on a level bit of road on the side of a hill commanding a fine view of the whole country towards the Monte Pulchiana. A platform and tent were erected for the king, and groups of people were scattered around to join in or witness this favorite national amusement.

Tempio is the principal gun-factory of the island; though the barrels, which are very long and light, are made at Brescia, and then worked, fitted to their stocks, and finished off here, with considerable taste and ingenuity. The gun resembles, in many respects, the Albanian tophaic, with the exception of the former being of polished and inlaid steel, while the latter is generally ornamented with silver. The ramrod is merely a piece of thick wire, and, being perfectly pliable, it is difficult to an unaccustomed hand to load the gun. The stock being very narrow and light, the greatly over-balancing weight and length of the barrel are other inconveniences to the stranger. Even to the natives, who use them with great precision and skill, the loading is an awkward operation, for, from the pliability of the ramrod, and the length of the gun, which is generally from 5 to 6 feet, it is necessary to incline it on the ground. The price of a gun varies from 2 l. to 12 l. according to the ornamental work.

The Bersaglio was a scene of great confusion and irregularity, and after three quarters of an hour’s continued firing, there still remained some 200 or 300 competitors, all anxious to try their skill and luck. A very small target was placed at about 150 yards off; and one in every three shots entered it. The centre of the bull’s eye having been hit, the king closed the scene, by giving an order to the fortunate marksman for a double barrelled percussion gun, with which, in all probability, he will never be able to take as good an aim as with that by which he won it.

But the contest for the prize was not confined to the long-bearded, longhaired, dark, wild mountaineers of Gallura. Their wives, their sisters, and their mothers can handle the gun as well as the distaff, and many of them joined in the Bersaglio. These Gallurese Amazons, though not the most skilful, were the most interesting part of the exhibition; and from their use of the gun as a matter of pleasure, one may easily believe what they would do, and, from what one hears, have done, in cases of necessity. […]

The king then proceeded to the Graminatogjiu. […] A Graminatogjiu, or wool-plucking, is a custom and amusement confined exclusively to Tempio, and perhaps does not exist anywhere out of Sardinia. That it should not be found elsewhere is singular, nor was any reason assigned for it; but the great quantity of wool produced in the district of Gallura, and requiring immediate preparation for use; the absence of a large portion of the male population in their employment of pastori, viandanti, and cavallanti, and consequent fondness for reunion among the females; the love of dancing, and, above all, the general spirit of poetry and power of extempore versification, may be, if not causes, certainly excuses for the existence of this curious custom.

The system in itself is good, uniting the “utile dulci” in the following successful manner.

B has a quantity of wool to be plucked, and she invites the rest of the consonants of the Tempiese alphabet to come to her house and do it. But she knows that consonants by themselves are mutes, and the male vowels belonging to them are therefore tacitly included in the invitation to make them pronounceable. C and D in their turn issue their “At Homes”. It is a treaty which is nominally for the reciprocity of service; but the secret articles belonging to it are, the admission of friends (who help them to do nothing), a small provision of flowers, bonbons, and ad libitum dancing when the wool is done; and as there is nothing in the treaty objectionable to the contracting parties, but, on the contrary, agreeable, the renewal of it is frequent.

The Graminatogjiu, as prepared for the king, was very different to that in its natural and unregal character. His Majesty and the Duke of Genoa having taken their seats at the bottom of a room, with his suite around him, twenty-nine of the prettiest and cleverest damsels of Tempio were ushered in, and sat down in the middle of room, with a basket of flowers placed before them. Each of them received a small piece of wool, the plucking of which served them till the whole scene was finished. […]

It was ultimately arranged that the converse of the custom should be adopted, and that the twenty-nine damsels should present their bouquets to the cavalieri instead of receiving them. Their embarrassment was very amusing, for they knew not the etiquette on such occasions; but, after a little instruction, they proceeded to their task.

The Principessa del Graminatogjiu having selected a bouquet from the vase, presented it to the King. Totally and happily ignorant of all form and ceremony, she, with sweet innocence and simplicity placed it in the hands of her sovereign, as though he had been a shepherd of her native hills, and he received it with a smile indicative of his appreciation of the gift, though no less of his amusement at the difference of a Turin and Tempio presentation. The next bouquet was, of course, presented to the Duke of Genoa, who accepted it in its proper and intended light — namely, an invitation to dance.

Having been informed at this time, by one of my friends in the King’s suite conversant with these matters, that it was likely a bouquet would be presented to me, being the only foreigner present, and inasmuch as I had no wish to make my first appearance on the Sardinian boards, and expose myself as a performer in a dance of which I knew nothing, nor have a partner to whom I might not be able to speak, from my own ignorance of Sarde, and hers of Italian, I withdrew from my position, and ensconced myself in a safe corner. The precaution was, however, of little avail, for, not-withstanding my outpost rank, a fair challenger drew me from my retreat, and presenting me with a bouquet, enlisted me in her service, while the rest of the twenty-nine provided themselves also with partners.

The music at length began, and the Duke of Genoa having been claimed by his partner, and the rest of us similarly drawn into the circle, the performance commenced; […] On the present occasion none entered more fully into the spirit of the ballo tondo than those who, though essentially Sarde by birth and feeling, have lived in the presence and influence of the court of Turin, without losing their national character and affections ; a fresh life seemed to be infused into them as they gradually warmed in the dance; and though “some sixty summers o’er”, they were roused into all the life and animation of thirty.

It was no less amusing on the other hand, to see the Viceroy, with other sedate authorities, for whom the dance had no national charm, figuring in the magic ring; an honor they would doubtless have dispensed with, but which it was politic to accept. After a few waltzes and quadrilles the party broke up, and thus terminated the royal Graminatogjiu.

I subsequently witnessed this festa in its natural state, being held in a room not remarkable for cleanliness or comfort.

The gentle zitelle were there, cross-legged on the floor, with a heap of wool apportioned to each of them. Their lovers were lolling and idling by their sides,

“The jest and youthful jollity, The quips and cranks and wanton wiles, Nods and becks and wreathed smiles”, passed with general animation and hilarity, almost drowning the sharp notes of the guitar.

The costumes had none of the extreme formality or wonderful cleanliness in “which they were exhibited to regal eyes”. Perfectly at ease in their daily but elegant dress, they worked at the wool, the bundles of which decreased or remained according to their industry or idleness; or, in equivalent terms, according to the absence or presence of the cavalieri. But the laugh and conversation were suddenly checked by a voice from one of the bystanders, who commenced his song, accompanied by the never-failing guitar. Frequently the “bene, bene”, came from many a voice, indicating the excellence of the composition; and the tale of love being finished, the hero presented the heroine with the flower he had been holding, as the ostensible subject of his song. She placed it in her bosom with an air of triumph, and, after a slight pause, asked one of her friends to answer the verses for her. Having placed himself by her side, he ascertained the true thermometrical state of her heart, and consequent nature of the response that he might give; and being thus armed with her tender weapons, he dictated to her, line by line, the answer, which she accordingly sang. Each line was written down and translated to me as it came forth, and as such it will be presented. Several other Parnassus knights subsequently entered the lists of this poetical tournament, in which love was naturally the cause of each encounter, and produced various “woeful ballads” to their “mistress’s eyebrow”, some of considerable merit. The manual part of the Graminatogjiu was now nearly drawing to a close, but it was quite evident that their ideas had been more wool-gathering than their hands wool-plucking.

The last scene of the first act was finished most unceremoniously, and the first scene of the last act began with the introduction of bonbons and rosolio; and such is their partiality for the former that an ounce will repay 100 pounds of wool; nor are they diffident in a little contraband trade, for the smuggling them into their pockets was an important part of the scene.

The talking, the rattling of wine-glasses, and grappling of bonbons resounded on all sides, and the general “dolce (query dolci) far niente”, continued till the cry for the dance arose. It was “all cry and no wool”.

The sound of the music of the ballo tondo raised immediately all the maidens from their cross-legged postures, and summoned them all in its service; and it was kept up with a spirit and continuance which was a certain remedy for two hours and a half’s cross-leggedness.

One of the most amusing parts of the entertainment was the observance of the features of the different parties, which formed so clear an index to their feelings. The happiness and vanity of those who had received a flower and “blushed at the praise of their own loveliness” being sung aloud; the interest and attention excited in others, though not the favored objects of the youthful poets; the occasional bitter and forced smile of half envy, half rivalry; the hasty but searching glance occasionally thrown round the room in search of their cavalieri, were more or less depicted on the countenances of the fair conclave. On the other hand, the anxiety of many a swain to sing his mistress’s charms, with the silent ambition of gaining additional favor in her eyes by a public exhibition of his talents; and the appreciation or depreciation of each other’s poetical powers, either in rivalry or the spirit of criticism were equally “written on their brows”. The only countenance in the whole group which seemed to be moved by thoughts of an unromantic and substantial nature, was that of the owner of the wool, who betrayed her ideas of the infinite superiority of a staple commodity when placed in comparison with poetical sentiment and dancing.

It is difficult to speak of the beauty of the Tempiese assembled on this occasion, for one cannot do justice to it in a description without incurring the risk of an accusation of a romantic rhapsody from those who have never had the happiness of seeing them. Making a due allowance for the dull reality of actually manipulating a heap of dirty wool, it yet assumes a charm when the task is performed by 20 to 30 lovely girls, whose youth and beauty are thrown out to advantage by the elegance of their costume, whose energies are developed by an occupation as well as a pastime, and whose feelings are called forth by the spirit of poetry and passion. […] the peculiar faculty of the Gallurese for extemporaneous composition should be mentioned; for though a highly poetical feeling extends throughout the greater part of the island, the Limbara is the Parnassus of Sardinia.

In the Improvisatori and Improvisatrici (for both sexes are thus endowed) one sees the idea “Poeta nascitur” curiously confirmed, for the system of education which exists, instead of extending and improving, seems rather to repress and nullify the imaginative powers. The Tempiese, from their infancy, are accustomed to “lisp in numbers and to breathe in song”; yet few have risen to any general eminence, or been recognised as poets on Terra ferma. […]

Tempio, after the departure of the king, soon returned to its natural state of lethargic dullness. The trees which formed the avenues in the streets were withered, the triumphal arch had shed its outer skin of painted linen, the planks of it were half pulled down, and the dirt began to accumulate in all parts, in its pristine abundance; the natives lounged about with an expression of having awakened from their dream of empty royalty; the commandante, and bishop of Gallura, had little else to do save to scan, criticise, and compare each word and deed of the royal retinue; and the rest of the puffed up bosoms of the authorities were gradually collapsing from their late inflation.

There is little to be seen in Tempio. The streets are wide for a Sardinian town, but there are few remarkable buildings. Almost all the houses are of a greyish red granite, being the cheapest material, to which a stucco is occasionally added; the largest have rarely more than three stories, and separate families live in each. House-rent is considered dear, as a suite of five or six rooms of a respectable size lets for £5 or £6 per annum unfurnished.

The Cathedral is a mixture of styles, some evidently of early date; but in the various repairs and alterations, the modern Italian predominates. It is large and lofty, and the general effect good; and having been lately whitewashed in honor of the King’s visit, was wonder-fully clean. The high altar, with a handsome balustrade of coloured marbles, the well carved oak choir, and a new marble pulpit, massive, but somewhat heavy, are the principal objects. The pictures are few, and have little merit.

In 1560, it was merely a collegiate church, dedicated to St. Peter by Gregory XV; and several applications were made without success to the Holy See to transfer the Bishopric of Civita, (the services of which, virtually, were performed at the Church of St. Simplicius at Terra Nova,) to Tempio. No change, however, took place till 1839, when Gregory XVI raised the church to the rank of a cathedral (independently of that of Ampurias and Civita), with a dean, twelve canons, to whom another has lately been added, to superintend the musical department, and eighteen “benefiziati”, corresponding nearly to our minor canons.

Besides the cathedral, are thirteen churches in the town, and twelve in the environs; but scarcely any of them are worthy of particular notice, except one which may be interesting from a story attached to it.

It was built and dedicated to the “anime del Purgatorio”, by Don Giacomo Misorro, an extensive land-proprietor in the Pulchiana district, over which he exercised an unbounded liberty and licence, and followed up his marauding expeditions with a cruelty and vendetta which made him the dread of the whole neighbourhood. A lawless band of outcasts served him faithfully in all his iniquities; one of which occurred on the identical spot where this church now stands.

A dispute having arisen between him and a rival neighbour, acts of offence and retaliation took place, but no opportunity occurred for a decisive blow till Don Giacomo ascertained that twenty of his adversary’s party had started for Tempio on a mission, dangerous in its results to himself. In the course of a few hours he collected a body of his own followers, and at night overtook them in one of the defiles where they had halted. The onset was sudden and short; eighteen were slain, and of the two that escaped one was retaken and murdered, and the other conveyed to the house of Don Giacomo. But the mere slaughter of them was not sufficient; he returned in the morning to this human abattoir, and gloating over his mangled victims, leisurely smoked his cigar, and insultingly turned them over and kicked them about. In perfect confidence that law and justice could not touch him he returned home; but in the course of a few days imagining some danger and treachery in a negotiation he had entered into with the friends of his prisoner, relative to a ransom, he deliberately told him his suspicions, and taking out a pistol shot him through the heart.

But impunity power, and wealth, availed not, against conscience. How dear are its pangs, but how cheap are its indulgences, penitences, alms, oblations, and vows! Don Giacomo went to Rome and obtained absolution for this and the numberless other enormities weighing on his guilty soul. The legends of Gallura do not state the compromise he entered into there, but he returned to Tempio, and built the church “Del Purgatorio” on the precise spot where he had committed his wholesale massacre. Under the auspices and thraldom of the priesthood he spent the remainder of his days in masses and confessions; and if they can be considered a virtue, he died like the Corsair, “Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes”.

The cares of the diocese do not give much spiritual trouble to its mitred head, and if his grey hairs are being brought down with sorrow to the grave, they are only blanched by the pecuniary miseries of not getting full tithes, which are said to amount to 3000 scudi or more than 576 l. His majesty at his departure reimbursed to him all the expenses he had incurred during his stay at the palace; and at a very early hour in the morning previous to starting, confessed privately to him.

Monastic institutions have not thriven in Tempio. In 1635, a Tempiese bequeathed a sum of money to found a Capucin monastery, but it was applied to other purposes; and in 1690, a Capucin nunnery was established, but the fail recluses subsequently quarrelled among themselves, and if the scandal be true, their philanthropy was of so tender a nature, that eventually the convent was suppressed.

The Jesuits also had an establishment, and the story relative to its suppression, in which a heroine figures as the cause, has been modified by an ecclesiastical historian of the present day; but, according to a less biassed version, a rich and lovely young woman, of well-known family, entertained a partiality for one of the Jesuits, contrary, of course, to the wishes of her parents and friends.

One cannot presume to say whether it was priestly, platonic sentiment, or natural honest affection, an unworldly anxiety to have her wealth settled on their institution, or to prevent its felling into worldly hands; but it is sufficient that another lover, who, jure parentis, was betrothed, and Jure suo much attached to her, was determined to exemplify, by practical experience, to the Jesuits, that which Loyola had theoretically laid down, that “might is right, and right is might”. It was late in the evening when our lay hero knocked at the door of the monastery, and having obtained admission, after a short time, he, on some pretext, withdrew, saying that he would return immediately. He did so, but accompanied by nearly 200 men, who immediately seized the Jesuits; and while part of the armed force carried them off, the rest stayed and destroyed the whole of the interior of the building, leaving only the church of St. Giuseppe.

The governor’s palace, establishment, and retinue, consist of three rooms on a second story, a female servant, and a sentinel at the door. The appointment is not enviable, in reference either to sinecure or salary, and has only lately been filled up, having been vacant for some time; for it was with some difficulty that any one could be found to undertake it. The expression of a private soldier in England, that “he had leased his life for twenty-one years, to be shot at for a shilling a-day”, conveys some idea of part of the life of the late governor of Gallura. It was said that he compromised himself in his office, by tampering with certain parties then at enmity with each other, and being discovered, a complaint was preferred against him; to stifle which, he endeavored to seize and imprison the complainant. A series of acts of injustice and retaliation ensued, and at length the governor received one of the death- warnings peculiar to Sardinia. During the night he heard a pane of glass crack, and on examining it in the morning he found the fatal bullet on the floor. The custom of the country is, that whenever the vendetta “alla morte” ‒ revenge even to death, is to be carried out ‒ the party avenging himself shall give his adversary timely notice, by throwing a bullet into his window, that he may either make immediate compensation for the injury or prepare himself for death. The governor for some time used every caution as to when and where he went, but at length disregarded the warning, imagining he was safe. The assassin, however, had watched him with an eagle’s eye, and he fell in a moment the least expected. Report further says, that he is not the only governor of Gallura to whom this summary method of obtaining justice or inflicting vengeance has been intimated.

One of my friends in Sardinia has twice received this unmitigated hint. In one case he knew the party who had thrown the ball, and with a consciousness of not having aggrieved the man, but that his hostility arose from a misunderstanding and belief in some false reports, he boldly hunted out his adversary, explained matters, and they immediately were reconciled; and, in a subsequent conversation, he explained the way he intended to have shot my friend. They now live on very good terms, neither of them feeling the slightest inclination to annoy each other, and still less daring to complain of each other to any authority. It is stated that this custom was originally recommended, and at last enforced by the priests, who not having sufficient influence or power to prevent these murders, endeavored to mingle a little charity and honor in them; an evidence that confessions and absolutions availed more than law and justice.

By the census just finished, the population of Tempio amounts to 9941, comprehending the whole of the commune, with the shepherds and dispersed families of the neighbourhood, who belong to and have their head-quarters in the town. They and the agriculturists form by far the greater part of the population. With the exception of working gun-stocks, before alluded to, there are no mechanical employments. The remainder of the male population consists of viandanti and cavallanti, who, if not regularly employed in that occupation, are nevertheless continually travelling about with goods, either on their own account or on that of their friends.

As a population, the Tempiese are strong, athletic, and hardy; their constitution is strengthened by their occupations; a spirit of activity (one of the few exceptions to the general apathetic indolence of the Sardes) induces them to migrate so that they are to be found in almost all the principal towns in the island; and from their industry they are called “Gli Ebrei de Sardegna”; but as they are honest, they may feel more complimented in being stigmatised as “Ebreo della Gallura”, than if they were likened to a lazzarono of Cagliari. In many respects they are like the Galliegos of Spain, whose honesty and high-mindedness, though engaged in laborious and sometimes menial occupations, have reflected such credit on the province to which they belong.

The female part of the Tempiese population is no less industrious, honest, and domestic. From their infancy they are inured to hardship, and this, united to the coldness of their climate, accounts for the comparative lateness of life at which they attain maturity; as,generally speaking, they are not nubile till they are fifteen, which, in the fortieth degree of latitude, is a remarkable occurrence. They are well made, but devoid of the prurient and voluptuous fulness of the females of the southern parts of the island.

The Tempiese, in regard to their moral and intellectual qualities, are naturally shrewd and clever, and, wherever their talents have been cultivated, have distinguished themselves; but this has depended on education out of their own country. It is only since 1821 that a primary school has been established. It has about 130 pupils, and these, added to about the same number in the gymnasio, give a proportion of about one in thirty-three, educated ‒ to use their expression ‒ in the whole population. The number of those who can positively read is far from that number, nor are there evidences of much literary pursuit or attainment even among those who can, for there are scarcely any books in the place except a small collection in the college of the Scuole Pie.

As far back as the year 1674 and 1688, the Tempiese applied to the Aragon government for a municipality, and repeatedly endeavored, but without success, to obtain it, till about three years since, when Carlo Alberto granted them the long-wished-for boon; but it would be difficult to say what particular advantage has arisen from it, save the gratification of vanity, and of rivalry with the other municipalities.

A dash of the pen of the King of Sardinia is a much easier operation than protracted debates and ponderous parliamentary reports on municipal corporations in other countries; but it is very doubtful if the royal grant has not been, by its centralising effects, more injurious than advantageous. It was, however, thankfully received, judging, at least, from the numberless inscriptions in Latin and Italian relative to it, placed in all parts of the town on the arrival of His Majesty, and which quite apotheosised him for the supposed blessing.

A handsome uniform for the Syndic is perhaps the king’s latent meaning of municipality; […] The few archives existing in the town are mostly Papal ordinances, and others relative to church matters, the greater part of modern date and of little interest on general points of history.

Tempio, from its high situation and exposure to the winds, is exempt from intemperie, and healthy, though cold and slightly subject to humidity from its proximity to the cloud-catching tops of the Limbara, which puts on its diadem of snow in November and does not lay it aside till April; but in the summer the heat is intense, from the refraction of the granite.

My time allowed me to make but a slight acquaintance with the Limbara monarch ‒ to have accepted his “sub Jove frigid” hospitality, and have known all the minor branches of his family ‒, his snows, his crags and precipices, his fountains and his glens.

This magnificent granitic mountain decreases on the north side by successive minor ranges till it reaches the coast; but on the south is very precipitous, and rises suddenly out of the plain.

The Punta Balestrieri, the highest point is 4396 feet above the level of the sea; the ascent and descent are an easy day’s work, and the fatigue is well repaid by the magnificent view, though it is not as extended as the height induces one to believe, for the intermediate hills intercept the view of the sea on the Alghero and Terra Nova coasts; and the Goceano and Gennargentu ranges, to the south-west and south, close in the land view.

The numerous streams and fountains give a freshness and verdure to parts of the mountains, striking the eye forcibly by the comparison with the cold bleak granite, and man seems to have availed himself of every cultivable patch of ground.

A small waterfall of about thirty feet called “Il Pisciaroni”, is the weathergauge of the district, for, on a still, quiet day, the sound of it may be heard at Tempio; and when it becomes loud, is the harbinger of approaching bad weather.

Another fountain, called Franzoni, is said to be so cold at certain seasons that it breaks the glass into which it is poured, and that wine will lose its colour if immersed in it for a few hours.

The Punta Balestrieri derives its name from a tribe celebrated for their opposition some years since to the noblesse, in their unwarrantable power over their serfs and the lower orders. One of the barons, enamoured of a daughter of one of the Balestrieri, used every means to obtain possession of her; but failing by persuasion and promise of marriage, he made proposals which not only tended to increase her abhorrence of him, but obliged her to call in her father to her assistance. An altercation ensued; both parties vowed vendetta, and the noble suitor was shot before he reached home. The noblesse made common cause against the murderer and his tribe, not so much for the individual case as for the attack on their privileged class; and the serfs and peasants, on the other hand, enrolled themselves to defend their lives and property, under the title of Balestrieri.

Many were the expeditions against each other, and the noblesse having failed in many of their minor encounters, determined on one grand effort, to drive their enemies out of their haunts to the summit of the mountain, and there exterminate them. Having scoured the glens and gorges in the lower part of the Limbara, they were ascending a narrow and precipitous defile in the silence of a dark night, when a voice suddenly broke on their ears, ‒ “Eccomi”‒, Here am I. It was the shout of the father who had saved his daughter’s honor at the risk of his own life; and from the ambush in which he and his companions had concealed themselves, a galling and destructive fire was instantaneously poured on their adversaries. They all fell, the pass was covered with their bodies; and so great was the slaughter that almost every noble family in Tempio had to mourn the loss of one of their relations.


SOURCES OF ILLUSTRATIONS

19th Century Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs (captions translated freely)

Nicola Benedetto Tiole, “Man of Tempio”, ca 1819-1826, IN Nicola Tiole, Album di costumi sardi riprodotti dal vero (1819-1826), saggi di Salvatore Naitza, Enrica Delitala, Luigi Piloni, Nuoro, Isre 1990.

Giuseppe Cominotti “Militia in service” [snippet], ca 1826-1839, IN Giuseppe Cominotti and Enrico Gonin [drawing], A.J. Lallemand [engraving], IN Alberto Della Marmora, Voyage en Sardaigne, ou Description statistique, phisique… Atlas de la première partie, 1. ed. Paris, Delaforest 1826; 2. ed. Paris, Bertrand – Turin, Bocca,1839.

Giovanni Marghinotti, “King Carlo Alberto”, 1842, IN Municipal palace of Tempio Pausania, photo by Franco Pampiro.

Aldo Fornoni, Tempio, ca 1951, IN Costumi popolari italiani, Milano, Gorlich, 3 v., 1951-1958 (1: Italia meridionale, Sicilia, Sardegna, 1951) [clear reproduction of the soap vendor woman of Tempio, of A. Pittaluga – 1828, then also reproduced by L. Baldassarre – 1841].

Alessio Pittaluga, “Shepherdess from Gallura”, ca 1826, IN Royaume de Sardaigne dessiné sur les lieux. Costumes, par A.[lessio] Pittaluga, Paris, chez Marino; Firenze, Antonio Campani, 1826 (rist. Carlo Delfino 2012).

Giuseppe Cominotti and Enrico Gonin [drawing], A.J. Lallemand [engraving], “Sardinian clothes in series – Tempio”, IN Alberto Della Marmora, op.cit.

Nicola Benedetto Tiole, “Women of Tempio seen from behind”, ca 1819-1826, op. cit.

Rifles from Tempio”, IN Giuseppe Sotgiu, I fucili di Tempio, Tempio, Accademia Popolare Gallurese G. Gabriel, 2012.

Lorenzo Pedrone, “Shepherd from Gallura”, IN Luciano Baldassarre, Cenni sulla Sardegna, illustrati da 60 litografie in colore, Torino, Botta, 1841; Torino, Schiepatti, 1843 (rist. Archivio fotografico sardo, 1986, 2003).

Philippine de La Marmora, “Woman of Tempio”, 1860, op. cit.

Giuseppe Cominotti and Enrico Gonin [disegno], A.J. Lallemand [incisione], Graminatorgiu, 1826, IN La Marmora, op. cit.

Giuseppe Cominotti and Enrico Gonin [drawing], A.J. Lallemand [engraving], “Sardinian dance – area of Sassari”, ca 1826, IN Alberto Della Marmora, op.cit.

John William Cook, A graminatorgiu at Tempio, ca 1843-1849, IN this book.

Luciano Baldassarre, “Round dance”, ca 1841, IN Luciano Baldassarre, Cenni sulla Sardegna op. cit.

Bartolomeo Pinelli, “Costumes of Tempio”, ca 1828, IN Raccolta di costumi italiani i più interessanti disegnati ed incisi da Bartolomeo Pinelli nell’anno 1828.

State Archive of Cagliari, “Church and convent of the nuns”, 1821.

Giuseppe Cominotti, “Greetings from Tempio”, 1825, IN Francesco Alziator, La raccolta Cominotti cit.

Jean Baptiste Barla, “Wealthy man from Tempio”, 1841 (coll. Angelino Mereu).

Jean Baptiste Barla, “Wayfarer of Tempio”, 1841 (coll. Angelino Mereu).

Agostino Verani, “Men of Tempio”, ca 1806-1815, IN Scoperta della Sardegna. Antologia di testi e autori italiani e stranieri, a cura e con introduzione di Giuseppe Dessì, Milano, Il Polifilo, 1967, p. 128.

Agostino Verani, “Women of Tempio”, ca 1806-1815, IN Scoperta della Sardegna. op. cit.

State Archive of Cagliari, “Grant of the city title to Tempio”, 1836.

Carlo Brundo, Picco Balistreri. Racconto storico del sec. XVII, Cagliari, Timon, 1875, rist. Istituto Giulio Cossu, Tempio, 2012

Postcards and Photos, Late 19th/Early 20th Century

Collection Erennio Pedroni, Gianfranco Serafino, Vittorio Ruggero – Tempio Pausania

Contemporary Photos

Antonio Concas – Flickr, HrodebertRobertus – Flickr, Carlo A.G. Tripodi – Flickr, Vittorio Ruggero – Flickr, Salvatore Carta – Instagram, Roberto Gamboni – Flickr, Davide Cioncia – Flickr, Salvatore Solinas – Flickr