According to some historians the village came about in 1120, the work of Benedictine monks, while others believe it rose during the Aragonese period. The first mention of the lovely little church of San Mauro dates to 1574 and its history is impressed in every stone it is made of, including those of the muristenes and the nearby Nuragic monuments. It’s like a puzzle that give life to a commingling of historical periods that are well integrated amongst one another within a greater plan devised by the Catalan. The sanctuary rises on the steep slopes of Mount Lisai (a hill of just under 500 metres) in a lovely setting just five kilometres from Sorgono, one of the Mandrolisai’s most important towns in the very heart of the island. San Mauro is where Sorgono borders with Ortueri and Atzara.
The building was designed by Giorgio Palearo Fratino, a military engineer who worked on public buildings and military fortifications in Sardinia under the Spanish king Philip II. The church is rectangular with a ten meter high and ten metre wide trachyte façade. The entrance is reached over a broad staircase with a lion holding up the Aragonese heraldic shield on either side, and the entrance is a great door done in the Late-Mannerist style. Inside you will notice that the ceiling is an oval barrel vault ceiling divided into six sections. The marble altar is Baroque and has a niche where a lovely wooden statue of the saint is housed. If you look up you’ll see the two-metre Romanesque rose window, the largest of its kind in the island.
The church is only one part of the sanctuary. The place of worship is part of a wider architectural complex that includes row houses, known as cumbessias or muristenes, built to accommodate pilgrims. In the past they were also used as loggias for vendors working the market set up during religious festivities. Still today pilgrims flock here by the thousands, especially on the last Sunday in May and in early June for the San Mauro celebrations, which also features a palio race, singing and dancing on the piazzas, stands selling fine local fare and exhibitions about the sanctuary and local traditions. On the outskirts of the Christian sanctuary is a stele from the nearby Funtana Morta Giant tomb, a gave linked to the Talei proto-nuraghe located just a few hundred metres from the church.