THE VILLAGE Even though Monte Arci makes us think of mountainous territory, nevertheless there is a part that belongs to flat areas typical of the humid zones near Oristano. Santa Giusta with its homonymous pond that is nearby Monte Arci, belongs to this zone. Its present name, which is connected with the majestic basilica that was its cathedral during many years, appears only since the Twelfth century. Nonetheless, its history started as the Punic town of Othoca. As a matter of facts according to many finds and to some information found in the Itinerarium Antonii (III century A.D.) this old town possibly is the present Santa Giusta. Othoca, that was known with many names (Eaden, Oseapol, Hiadis) means in Semitic “old town” and was founded approximately in the Eighth century b. C. by Punic population and afterwards occupied by the Romans.
TERRITORY Even though Santa Giusta is quite near the flat zones of Arborea it is deeply connected with the territory of Monte Arci not far from the village. In this area as it happened for more mountainous zones, some obsidian workshops were found above all in the area called Roia s’Acqua Bella. The village rises on a flood terrace that is located between the homonymous lagoon and the ponds of Palmas and Pauli Majori. The pond of Santa Giusta, 790 hectares in width, is the third widest Sardinian pond after the Santa Gilla one (at the entrance of Cagliari) and the pond of Cabras in the Sinis peninsula. Many ornithological species found their natural habitat in the pond of Santa Giusta as for instance the mallard, grey heron, coot and many others.
ARCHAEOLOGY Human settlement in Santa Giusta dates back to the Neolithic age as it is testified by the village of Bonu Ignhinu and ceramics finds of Ozieri. There are also many nuraghi as the single-towered of Sassu, Nuragheddu, Nuracciana and Santa Giusta.
In the zone called S’Elia, nearby the lagoon area, a wide nuragic village was found. Nevertheless the most important element of Santa Giusta is its link with the Punic town of Othoca, which is very likely the present Santa Giusta. Many ceramics that have been found on the plateau of Santa Giusta’s church date back to the Punic- Phoenix age. Many of them belonged to funeral sets whereas others finds such as amphorae and anchors were found into the pond. Moreover, thanks to numerous excavations, the ruins of the Punic city walls as well as funeral monuments have been found. The traces of the Roman age are also worth noting: amongst them we must remember the necropolis and the small temple of Demetra and Kore, the bridge with five arches (only two of them survived) that cross the paving-stone road that linked Othoca with Karalis (the present Cagliari).
In the civic museum of Santa Giusta are stored many finds that belonged to different cultures that lived in this territory since the Middle Neolithic up to Punic-Phoenix period, the Roman age and the Middle Ages.
HISTORY During the Middle Ages Santa Giusta belonged to the Giudicato d’Arborea, in the Curatoria di Simaxis. Furthermore it was diocese headquarter from 1119 to 1503. During the Giudicati period its bridge was one of the most important means of communication of all Campidano. It was affected by the numerous wars of Marquisate of Oristano, by the Barbarian invasions and by the Black Death in 1652 that provoked many dead and put to the test the survival of all Sardinian people. In more recent periods it followed Oristano’s destiny which it was deeply connected with.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART The basilica of Santa Giusta is undoubtedly one of the most important expressions of Romanesque architecture all over Sardinia. It was erected between 1135 and 1145 as the cathedral in the highest site of the area where the ancient acropolis already was. It was built by workforce from Pisa that used many sandstone blocks, which were abundant in Tharros, in the Sinis peninsula, together with white marble and black basalt clutches. The Arab decorations are to African workforce that also worked for the construction of this basilica.
The basilica’s ground plan is that of a Latin cross with three naves separated by marble and granite columns. The capitals and the bases are prevalently from materials recycled from Othoca, Neapolis and Tharros. It has a wood truss roof over the central nave while it has a barrel vault in the aisles. The presbytery is over-elevated on the crypt, it is covered by barrel vaults and illuminated by small windows that are in the apse. During the restoration works in the Eighties of Twentieth century under the pavement some Nuragic walls were found. The church façade is divided into three arches and a porch that consists of pillars with animal-shaped capitals and a central trefoil from which the light enters. The principal portal is highlighted by a white marble frame and it is surmounted by two lions that lay on a capital. Above the capital, over which leaves and gnomes are sculptured, there is a basalt cross.
TYPICAL PRODUCTS The typical products of Santa Giusta have a double origin: on the one hand there are the ground products such as cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruits, on the other the pond products. This duality ground/water is one of the most peculiar aspects of Santa Giusta that is thus linked to the humid zones of the pond and to the mountainous ones of Monte Arci.
GASTRONOMY As regards its natural habitat Santa Giusta can be considered as a lagoon place: that of its homonymous pond and that of another pond, Pauli Majori in the territory of Palmas Arborea. For this reason in its gastronomic tradition fish is very important and above all grey mullet and common eel. The latter is very important for the so-called “bottarga” that is a sort of local caviar. It is obtained by the grey mullet eggs after choosing, exsiccating and putting in salt them. When ready it is eaten as a starter in slices with the local extra virgin olive oil otherwise it is used grated as pasta dressing. Among the first courses we must remember “malloreddus” (a type of pasta) with tomatoes sauce to which a fair is dedicated in September.
CELEBRATIONS AND FAIRS In Santa Giusta there are many celebrations from the 14th of May when there is the celebration of the patron from whom the village and the basilica derive their names. In August there are the regattas of “is farris” and of “is fassonis” the latter very important as a historical-cultural event. In the first days of September there is the gastronomic fair of “is malloreddus” whereas the last Sunday of this month there are the celebrations dedicated to S. Severa.
REGATTA OF “IS FASSONIS” The particular show of the regatta of “is fassonis” that, after the first edition in 1977, is performed every August in the pond of Santa Giusta. It is a competition of typical ancient pond boats made up of “su fenu” that is a swamp herb that grows in the local area. The precise origin of this kind of boat is still unknown even though it possibly has its origin in the Nuragic or phoenix age. As a matter of facts it seems an imitation of the Egyptian boats made up of papyrus and used as fishing boats in ponds and swamps. Its antiquity is testified by the representation in the hypogeic temple of S. Salvatore in Cabras (Fourth cent. A.D.) where it appears in its original structure i.e. made of intertwined rush at bow and by stretched out at aft. There is also another regatta called of “Fassonis a cantoi”. In this regatta the boats are driven by a “cantoi” a kind of pole made of three reeds 6 metres in length that allows the boat to move faster. The boat called “Is fassonis” are very similar to some boats of Peru called “cabalitos de totore” that are used in Titicaca lake. This similitude has led to a strong friendship between Santa Giusta and those areas of Peru.