“At least 600 years old, on the top of a mountain, at the edge of a cliff, a quarter of an hour over steep and rugged trails,” were the few concise words that said it all. They were pronounced by the mayor of Chiaramonti in 1827 to justify and finalise the definitive abandon of the “uncomfortable” parish of San Matteo. It had been built around the beginning of the 16th century over the remains of the fortifications of a castle built by Brancaleone Doria, the husband of Eleonora d’Arborea. The imposing church on the fort had been repeatedly sacked by raiders, and so the mayor had a new parish church built in the centre of town.
The history of the grand manor has been forgotten, it is no longer a church and not even a fortress coveted by men greedy for power. It has now become an oasis of peace steeped in history, reachable on foot from the centre of Chiaramonti, an ancient little village in Anglona on the border with Sassari and Logudoro. Some parts of the old church are still standing and imperiously dominate the town, like the 12 metres high belfry built on the tower of what had been a medieval castle. Eight chapels lined the nave, of which traces of aragonese architecture are still visible in the vaulted ceilings, and at the side was the chapel of the convent of Carmelites that flanked the church.
In the silence of this abandoned church, you can almost hear the echoes of the bells in the tower as they set the rhythm for the pastoral life of the villagers, and, within the walls, hear the raised voices of the troops of the Doria family as they defend the castle from the power lust of rivals.
The mayor back in 1827 certainly couldn’t have imagined that the abandoned “falling fortress” would have become so fascinating as to attract visitors and cultural events in a then distant future. How could this place, so vital to the history of Chiaramonti, so rife with different and contrasting emotions, the powerful foundations of an unconquerable fort and walls steeped in devotion, not become an international stage for jazz musicians, so at home in this part of Sardinia?