The Ancient Water Temples of Sardinia
The well temples where, 3,000 years ago,
the nuraghi peoples worshipped the Waters

by Sandro Pintus

Going back thirty odd centuries and more you can discover a fascinating world linked to the Cult of the Waters practised by the nuraghi peoples of Sardinia in beautiful architectural buildings called "Sacred Wells" which lasted about a thousand years. The first well temples date back to the 12th century BC but they developed most in the period from the 8th to the 6th centuries BC.

These structures were built in an era prior to the so-called geometric period and are striking in their beauty. Over thirty, big and small, have been counted throughout the island, the majority concentrated in the central southern area.

The entrance to the well temple of Santa Cristina in Sardinia
(photo Blue Planet©)

Essentially, they can be divided into three categories: temples built within or very close to villages, temples inside sanctuaries and apparently isolated temples. All these sacred wells have the same architectural structure with a vestibule at ground level where the priests or priestesses conducted the ceremony and where offerings were left.

However, not all springs were considered suitable for worship and, when a particular source was found, the whole surrounding area was consecrated and recognised as a holy place. The water in these holy springs was held in great respect for its therapeutic capacities and worshipped for its wealth which was precious for life itself.

Subsequently, in the first millennium AD water was considered by Christianity as the symbol of purification. In the Jewish religion too water symbolises the origin of creation, mother and origin of all things and thus must be considered sacred. The water of life presents itself as a cosmogonic symbol: it purifies, heals and rejuvenates. It possesses a virtue of purification which leads it to be considered sacred.

The sky seen from within the well temple
of Santa Vittoria in Sardinia (photo Blue Planet©)

The well temples of the nuraghi culture were used to celebrate propitiatory ceremonies sometimes accompanied by animal sacrifices dedicated to the water divinities. According to the religious beliefs of the nuraghi culture, which still live on in Sardinia, the waters of the temples had healing powers due to the hydrological spirit or spirits who lived in the place in which the temple was built.

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