In Aritzo a narrow flight of steps leads up to an old, massive 17th-century building which served as a high-security prison up to the 1940s. In 1793 it held some French officers, captured during an attempted landing by Napoleon's troops.
The building, made of schist stone, earth and chestnut wood, has a pointed-arch underground passage, built by the Spanish, and called 'sa bovida' (the vault). The interior spaces, now fully restored, include four rooms that in the past were used as guard posts and as women's and men's cells.
One of these rooms once had no opening whatsoever: in recent times, a portal was added to make it usable. The enclosed courtyard has an ancient sundial.
The exhibition is distributed in the various spaces and includes a permanent exhibition entitled 'Bruxas', dedicated to magic and witchcraft in Sardinia between the 15th and the 17th centuries. Extensive historical research went into building the collection of religious, magic and sorcery-related objects, emotionally involving the viewers and introducing them to the world of popular beliefs and the most terrible curses.
A section focuses on the Inquisition and includes a series of torture instruments, used for centuries on thousands of innocents, accused of pursuing witchcraft and casting evil spells.
The fascinating ambience of the old Spanish prison gives a strong impression of the dire conditions prisoners had to endure in the past, deprived as they were of all human rights. The guided tour is a chance to hear old tales and legends of devils and witches, conjuring up a world imbued with mystery and fascination.
Address: via Guglielmo Marconi - 08031 Aritzo Phone +39 0784 629801 Managing Agency: Municipality of Aritzo