Situated in the Northern part of the Campidano plain, Oristano, was inhabited since the Neolithic Ages and some settlements of the Bronze Ages have been recently excavated in vico Ammirato, on the slope of Mont Arci, near to the nuraghe Bumendula and the nuraghe del Rimedio, in an area beside the shores of the river Tirso.
It was capital of the Giudicato of Arborea. In the Middle Ages, the city received an important urban and economic development. In 1478 it fell under the dominion of the Aragon Spanish invaders and submitted a long decadency that in '600 brought the city to a nearly total depopulation. In 1718 the whole island became part of the Reign of Sardinia and its re-birth in '900 is due to the destruction of the surrounding fortified walls and its proclamation as main city of its own Province, and so, today, Oristano offers a more modern look.
The Cathedral entitled to Santa Maria, built in Romanesque style on the ruins of a Byzantine building of the XII century, preserves two splendid engraved marble slabs featuring the episode of Daniel in the Lions den, masterpiece of a Catalan artist to embellish the Gothic transept. Only the chapel of the Santissimo and the Rimedio are of the old construction.
In its altar there is a statue of the Madonna and Baby Jesus, a sculpture of a Catalan artist of the XIV century, whilst one of the side chapels preserves the wooden Cross of the Annunciata (masterpiece attributed to Francesco di Valdambrino, sculptor of the early XV century with Tuscany origins). Between 1729 and 1745 the church was completely refurbished with the implementation of a transept in Neoclassic style based on the project of the architect Cominotti. In the small archive (XVII century) two bronze lion headed door knockers firmed by the artist Placentinus and dated 1228. Important are also a series of manuscripts of Gregorian chants, with hand painted miniatures, some of which are of the XIII century.
On the main square, separate from the Cathedral arises the monumental bell tower with a dome shape top and Piedmont Baroque features, project of the Sabaudian military engineer Davisto.
In the Church of San Francesco the Christ of Nicodemo is preserved, a wooden sculpture that is one of the typical "painful" Gothic Crosses. In the nearby piazza Eleonora d'Arborea arises a monument of the '800, entitled to the famous Lady Judge that at the end of the '300, proclaimed the Carta de Logu, an important legal document which was an organic, coherent, and systematic work of legislation encompassing the civil and penal law, applied throughout the island.
The medieval tower of San Cristoforo (or of Mariano) still preserves a bronze bell (of '400) which ranged at each community event. Important is also the monumental religious complex of the Church and Convent of the Carmine, built in '600 and project of the Sabaudian architect Giuseppe Viana, similar in all its architectonic styles and internal decorations (plasters, wrought iron works, engraved marbles).
Not to miss: the Antiquarium Arborense which hosts two painted tables with episodes of the life of San Martino (XV century) and an important exhibition of archeological local finds of the Prehistoric Ages and of the Byzantine period.