Tratalias Vecchia: the medieval village of Sulcis Iglesiente
After about three years, I finally returned to Tratalias. On this occasion, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Tratalias, of which, I must be honest, I knew little.
The visit to the museum gave me the opportunity to have a chat with the guide, a resident of Tratalias. Talking to him and listening to his stories helped me to better understand the history of this village.
Tratalias has always fascinated me, I already knew the story but I had no idea of the suffering that the inhabitants of the old Tratalias must have felt in seeing their houses demolished, the ancient Town Hall and be literally catapulted into dwellings that did not represent their story, their life.
All this has given me the desire to talk about Tratalias and retrace his story by writing an article about it.
The Medieval village of Tratalias
It was once one of the main urban centers of the “basso Sulcis”
The actual date of creation of the country is not known. What is known is that Tratalias knows a period of growth after the year 1000.
It was in this period that the town of Tratalias became part of the Curatoria Di Solci or Solc (Catalan term used to indicate the Sulcis) with the capital Sant’Antioco, which in turn belonged to the Giudicato of Cagliari.
This flourishing period was witnessed by the decision to build a new church. In fact, in 1213 one of the most outstanding monuments of medieval religious architecture was erected: the Cathedral of Santa Maria di Monserrato.
These years of growth fell when between 1355 and 1362 the Diocese was transferred to Villa di Chiesa (now Iglesias). From this moment on, a period of decline began for the village, probably also caused by famines and epidemics.
Tratalias Vecchia: years of economic growth
The nineteenth century was a period of redemption for this small town
The documents that have survived speak of Tratalias since 1822, the year in which the village was included in the province of Iglesias.
The nineteenth century was a period of regrowth for the village. The families who settled in Tratalias devoted themselves almost exclusively to sheep farming and agriculture.
The agricultural products cultivated were cereals, especially wheat. In this period we also discover the cultivation of orchards and olive trees. A product that was found only in Tratalias was leather. Here, unlike other parts of Sulcis Iglesiente, the tanning of leather was practiced.
Trade was mainly with the islands of Sant’Antioco and San Pietro.
An event much felt by the inhabitants of Tratalias and neighboring territories was a fair that was organized in honor of Santa Maria. Following the transfer of the bishopric, the simulacrum of the Virgin was moved to Iglesias, with the agreement that every year he would return in May. This fact was created around the transport of the statue a real ritual of which I speak at the bottom of the article.
Old & New Tratalias
From the new railway to the Monte Pranu
In the 1950s, Tratalias saw a new development with the construction of the railway. This allowed the inhabitants to move more easily, as the town was connected with the villages of Sulcis up to Siliqua.
In a period of strong growth and expansion for the small village, came also the project that praised its end: the construction of the artificial lake of Monte Pranu.
A barrier was built on the Rio Palmas with the idea of giving greater impetus to the agricultural and pastoral activities of the lower Sulcis.
On the one hand, this project gave an extra march, increasing the agro-pastoral development of Sulcis Iglesiente; on the other hand, it caused considerable damage to the homes of the towns near the dam including Tratalias.
The houses became increasingly inhospitable and unstable, so the inhabitants of Old Tratalias were literally forced to leave their homes to move to a separate center called today “New Tratalias“.
The new center was located in a hilly area near the old village, safe from the danger of infiltration, in a place suitable for an urban layout. In fact, however, the new center is located in a completely isolated and not passing point.
Il borgo di Tratalias
Today a small village with restored houses
Visiting the village of Tratalias Vecchia means entering the historic center full of history. Where, if you know the events that happened only a few decades ago and you look at the historical photographs preserved inside the Museum, you can breathe a little of the suffering that many families of the old village have experienced.
Today there are 45 houses, the only ones saved to leave an urban context around the beautiful Church of Santa Maria. I am talking about small restored houses, many of which are now used as workshops, one is reserved for the historical archive and another for the municipal museum.
The same construction of the houses and the material used tells of how, in the past, the economy of the town should be prosperous. The houses were built with the massive use of stone walls while, in other centers of Sulcis, it was common to use a cheaper material such as raw bricks of straw and mud that were dried in the sun.
A practice typically used in Sardinia, as well as in some points of the old Tratalias. In fact, the houses of the old village built in “ladiri” were the first to suffer damage from water infiltration.
After the mandatory relocation of the inhabitants, the houses were sadly demolished in the 1980s because restoring them and securing them would have been too expensive. So it was said at the time, without giving weight to the economic and psychological damage that this displacement would cause the inhabitants of the affected centers.
Even the old Town Hall, a nineteenth-century structure, was demolished in front of its population. Of this extraordinary work remains only an accurate reproduction and historical photographs that tell moments of real pain for the inhabitants. The photos, the reproduction, and some of the bells of the monument are kept in the Museum of Tratalias.
The village of Tratalias after the pandemic
Until some time ago, before the emergency Covid-19, staying in the old village was pleasant thanks to the service offered by pizzerias or small craft shops.
Unfortunately, after the last years of the pandemic, almost all shopkeepers and refreshment shops have understandably decided to close their businesses because of the high costs and poor performance.
2020 is another blow to Tratalias but I don’t think it’s over! My hope is that the village can recover thanks to a greater turnout, and tourist promotion so that you can see a flowered Tratalias and the inhabitants can choose to live where their roots are preserved.
At this point in history, you may be wondering: if there are no more shops open, a single refreshment service that opens during the summer and exclusively in the evening, why visit the old village?
To see the monument that I consider among the most beautiful in the area: the Church of Santa Maria di Monserrato. But not only!
Tratalias Vecchia: the Santa Maria of Monserrato Church
The Church of Tratalias is one of the most beautiful medieval monuments of Sulcis Iglesiente
Built in 1213, the church of Tratalias is one of the most beautiful examples of late Sardinian Romanesque, inspired by the Pisan culture.
Well preserved for centuries, it was one of the first examples of architectural construction leaner than the buildings of the period. Designed with a remarkable vertical development, which heralds the Gothic period.
The front part is divided into two orders: from the lower area which has risky side mirrors and is decorated with a lozenge; and from the central area where the portal is located.
The “rosone” window that dominates the facade is formed by very simple lines but at the same time extremely decorative.
Tratalias Vecchia: the feast
“Sa Festa Manna”, the patron feast of Tratalias is celebrated in honor of the queen of Sulcis
The patron feast of Tratalias preserves one of the oldest rites of Sardinia. The transfer of the patron statue of both Tratalias and Sulcis Iglesiente involves a protocol that over time has changed but still remains steeped in culture. For those who do not know, Our Lady of Monserrato is well preserved in the diocese of Iglesias, only once a year the simulacrum is transferred to Tratalias for a few days.
On Ascension Thursday each year, a family of Tratalias takes care of the transportation of the statue.
In the past, they started from Tratalias towards Iglesias with a cart where the statue was closed in a box and loaded on a chariot (in Sardinian language Su Coggiu) pulled by oxen. Transportation took days, including the family staying in Iglesias for at least one night.
Today the route is made by tractors and the recovery of the statue takes an afternoon. What remains is the tradition of decorating them in celebration: embellished with blankets, sheets, or rugs strictly white and fine, flowers, and other decorative elements.
The wagons that follow the procession are different: one takes care only of the transport of the Santa; another accompanies Is Orberas that is, women dressed in Sardinian costume – unmarried and married -accompany “Sorberà manna”; another tractor accompanies girls dressed in white dresses that will escort the simulacrum and that until a few years ago they sat around the Saint. Finally, there are tractors from other countries of the Sulcis Iglesiente who join the trip since Santa Maria di Monserrato is the patron saint of all the Sulcis.
Where is Tratalias located?
Between the mountainous region of the lower Sulcis and the coast from Teulada to Sant’Antioco
Tratalias is a small town located in the southwest of Sardinia. Easily reachable by vehicle from all areas of Sulcis-Iglesiente.
I saw that from the town of Carbonia and Sant’Antioco, you can reach the town by public transport. To view the route you can set the navigator on Google Maps and see the distance from where you are and especially see if there are public links, by clicking on the transport icon. 🚍
I recommend visiting the Medieval Village of Tratalias especially if you are in the area of Carbonia or on the island of Sant’Antioco. Personally, I gladly go to see the village when I am in my hometown: Iglesias. So if you are nearby, do not miss the opportunity and let me know what you think of this small medieval Sardinian village.