The Millennial Wild Olive Tree

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Next to the church of Santa Maria Navarrese is a grand millennial olive tree, which according to botanists had probably already passed its millennium when, according to tradition, the Princess of Navarre settled in these parts in 1052. The size of this olive tree is significant, not because of its height, about 10 metres, but because of the circumference of its trunk, which measures 8 metres and 40 cm (at 1 metre and 30 cm from the ground). These dimensions make it one of the most impressive olive trees in the whole of Italy and it is no coincidence that this specimen, along with the other olive trees in the square below the church, was declared a “Natural Monument”, at the behest of the Region of Sardinia in January 1994. In the past, it was tradition in Baunei to make holy oil from olive seeds. Up until the fifties, during the days of the festival of the Assumption, the butchers of Baunei would set up their sales stall in the shadow cast by the millennial olive tree and were allowed to sell meat in the church square. By virtue of the agreements established in the mid- nineteenth century, the butchers of Lotzorai could set up their stall only a few hundred metres from the church, on the border between the two municipalities.

The vegetative state of the “Millennial Wild Olive Tree” is actually quite good, although the trunk is partially hollow. Some signs of fire on the trunk date back to10 February 1968, when an attempt to commit arson damaged the tree, fortunately not seriously. The episode was significant and deserves to be told, because it shows the bond that the local population feel for the arboreal patriarch. At the end of the sixties, the main settlement of Santa Maria was near the “Hotel Agugliastra”, which had opened a few years earlier, and in front of those few houses was one of the stops of the bus that linked the villages on the plains to those in the mountains. Late in the afternoon of that 10 February, someone at the bus stop noticed that the wild olive tree was on fire and sounded the alarm. Within minutes, dozens of people rushed to the tree armed with buckets of water filled at the nearby fountain and, thanks to this timely intervention, the fire was immediately extinguished.

The arsonist, whose insane act on 10 February 1968 threatened to turn the ''Millennial Wild Olive Tree” of Santa Maria Navarrese to ashes, has never been identified.