The Church of Santa Lucia and San Giovanni of Eltili

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The small country church once dedicated to San Giovanni, where festivities in honour of St. Lucia (organised by the so-called “relatives of the saint”) are held every year on the Tuesday after Pentecost, is the Baunei church that lies farthest from the town (over 12 km away). To see it now, surrounded by a dense wood, below the Orientale Sarda, it is strange to think that up until a few centuries ago it was the parish church of a village named Eltili, which suddenly disappeared in the sixteenth century. Traces of the last inhabitants of the settlement can be found in the parish registers of Baunei (in which, in 1876, the Rector Emanuele Lai recorded that he had picked up the clothes of a child that the local population said belonged to a family from Eltili) and in those of Urzulei (in which the death of a person named Joan Trudu de Eltili was recorded in 1606).

According to tradition, the territory of the village (surveyed yet again in 1504, under Spanish rule, but which had already disappeared from the tax register in 1527) extended to the beach of Cala Luna. In truth, it was found that the Eltili borders were about 8 km from the famous beach. Perhaps the village was abandoned after a plague, as often happened in the history of the island, maybe it was too weak demographically to withstand attacks by the inhabitants of neighbouring villages; what we know for certain is that, at some point, the territory of Eltili became part of Baunei. The Baunesis usually link this important acquisition of territory to the legend of “Maria Eltiledda”: according to legend, a woman named Mary Eltili, finding herself to be the only survivor of a devastating plague, decided to go north, towards Urzulei, to ask hospitality in exchange for lands belonging to her village. According to legend, however, at the place known as “Su ponte ’e sa pruna” (“plum bridge”) Maria met a Baunesis goat herder to whom she told her sad story and her intention to take refuge in Urzulei. The herdsman convinced Maria to go to Baunei with him, where she settled in a house outside the town, in an area now known as the district of Monte Colcau. According to tradition, that was how Maria gave to the entire territory of Eltili to Baunei.

It is said that Maria Eltiledda was a bit strange, because at sunrise every morning she would leave the house to go and pray, loudly, in an incomprehensible language. She probably prayed in Arabic, because as a young woman Maria Eltiledda had been kidnapped by the Saracens.