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The Giudicati of Sardinia.

The Giudicati (Judicadu, Logu or Rennu in Sardinian language) were autonomous state entities that took power in Sardinia between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. They were sovereign states with summa potestas, each ruled by a King called Judges (Judikes in Sardinian).


  • Historical causes of the advent of the Giudicati 1
    • The birth of the four Giudicati 1.1
  • Governments 2
    • The Corona de Logu and the central council 2.1
    • Judges 2.2
    • The giudical Chancellery 2.3
    • Local administration 2.4
      • Curadorias 2.4.1
    • Law 2.5
  • Giudical army 3
  • Culture 4
    • Religion 4.1
    • Language 4.2
  • Pisan-Genoese and Aragonese interference and end of the Giudicati 5
  • Notes 6
  • Bibliography 7

Historical causes of the advent of the Giudicati

Sardinia, after a relatively brief Vandal occupation (456-534), was from 535 until the eighth century, a province of the Byzantine Empire.

Since 705, with the rapid expansion of Islam, the Muslims pirates from North Africa began their raids against the island. These raids found no effective opposition of the Byzantine army[1] and in 815 Sardinian ambassadors required military assistance to the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious.[2]

In 807, 810/812 and 821/822 the Arabs of Spain and North Africa tried to invade the island but the Sardinians resisted several attacks,[3] so much that in a letter of the 851 Pope Leo IV ask aid to the Iudex Provinciae (judge of the province) of Sardinia, based in Caralis, for the defense of Rome. With the fall in the eighth century of the Exarchate of Africa, based in Carthage, and especially with the emergence of the Arab presence in Sicily (827) Sardinia remained disconnected from Byzantium and had necessarily become economically and militarily independent.

Arms of the giudicato of Logudoro
Arms of the giudicato of Arborea

The birth of the four Giudicati

The almost total absence of historical sources does not allow to have certainty on the passage from the Byzantine central authority to a selfgovernment. It is believed that, at some point, the Iudex Provinciae, perphans the praeses, of Caralis had the complete control of the island. He appointed, in the most strategic area for the defense of the coast, the lociservator (lieutenant) that, over time, became substantially autonomous from Caralis; this was probably the cause that propitiated the birth of the Giudicati.[4]

The first incontrovertible source that cites the existence of four giudicati is the epistle sent by Pope Gregory VII in October 14, 1073 to the Sardinian judges; however their autonomy was already clear in a later letter of Pope John VIII (872) in which he referred to them as principes Sardiniae ("princes of Sardinia").

The known medieval giudicati were:

Each of the four States had fortified borders to protect their political and commercial interests, as well own laws, its own administration and its emblems.[5]


The administrative organization of the Giudicati differed significantly from the feudal forms existing in the rest of medieval Europe as they institutions were closer to those of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, although with local peculiarities that some scholars consider of Nuragic derivation.

In the international context of the

  • Ortu G.G., La Sardegna dei Giudici, Nuoro, 2005 ISBN 88-89801-02-6
  • Birocchi I. e Mattone A. (a cura di), La Carta de logu d'Arborea nella storia del diritto medievale e moderno, Roma-Bari, 2004. ISBN 88-420-7328-8
  • AA.VV., Storia dei sardi e della Sardegna, II-III Voll., Milano, 1987-89.
  • A. Solmi - Studi storici sulle istituzioni della Sardegna nel Medioevo - Cagliari - 1965
  • F. C. Casula - La storia di Sardegna - Sassari 1994
  • P. Tola - Codice diplomatico della Sardegna - Cagliari - 1986
  • E. Besta - La Sardegna medioevale - Palermo - 1954
  • Raffaello Delogu, L'architettura del Medioevo in Sardegna, Roma, 1953, ristampa anastatica, Sassari, 1992.
  • F. Loddo Canepa - Ricerche e osservazioni sul feudalesimo sardo - Roma 1932
  • G. Stefani - Dizionario generale geografico-statistico degli stati sardi - Sassari - Carlo Delfino Editore
  • Alberto Boscolo, La Sardegna bizantina e alto giudicale, Cagliari, 1978.
  • Alberto Boscolo, La Sardegna dei Giudicati, Cagliari, Edizioni della Torre, 1979.
  • A. Solmi - Studi storici sulle istituzioni della Sardegna nel Medioevo - Cagliari - 1917.
  • R. Carta Raspi - La costituzione politico sociale della Sardegna - Cagliari - 1937.
  • R. Carta Raspi, "Storia della Sardegna", Mursia, 1971.
  • R. Carta Raspi, "Mariano IV D'Arborea", S'Alvure, 2001.
  • R. Carta Raspi, "Ugone III d'Arborea e le due ambasciate di Luigi D'Anjou", S'Alvure, 1936.
  • M. Caravale - Lo Stato giudicale, questioni ancora aperte, atti del convegno internazionale «Società e Cultura nel Giudicato d'Arborea e nella Carta de Logu» - Oristano - 1995.
  • F. C. Casula - La storia di Sardegna - Sassari - 1998.
  • F. C. Casula - Dizionario storico sardo - Sassari - 2003.
  • R. Di Tucci - Il diritto pubblico nella Sardegna del Medioevo, in Archivio storico sardo XV - Cagliari - 1924.
  • G. Paulis - Studi sul sardo medioevale - Nuoro - Ilisso - 1997.
  • Giuseppe Meloni e Andrea Dessì Fulgheri, Mondo rurale e Sardegna del XII secolo, Napoli, Liguori Editore, 1994
  • C. Zedda - R. Pinna “La nascita dei giudicati. Proposta per lo scioglimento di un enigma storiografico” in “Archivio storico giuridico sardo di Sassari”, seconda serie, volume 12 (2007), pp. 27–118.
  • C. Zedda - R. Pinna - La Carta del giudice cagliaritano Orzocco Torchitorio, prova dell'attuazione del progetto gregoriano di riorganizzazione della giurisdizione ecclesiastica della Sardegna, Collana dell'Archivio Storico e Giuridico Sardo di Sassari, nº 10, Sassari 2009.
  • C. Zedda – R. Pinna, Fra Santa Igia e il Castro Novo Montis de Castro. La questione giuridica urbanistica a Cagliari all'inizio del XIII secolo, in "Archivio Storico e Giuridico Sardo di Sassari", vol. 15 (2010-2011), pp. 125–187.


  1. ^ Solmi, p. 58.
  2. ^ Solmi, p. 60.
  3. ^ Solmi, p. 59.
  4. ^ Giuseppe Meloni, L’origine dei Giudicati
  5. ^ Francesco Cesare Casula, La politica religiosa del giudicato di Torres, ne I Cistercensi in Sardegna, Nuoro, 1990
  6. ^ Francesco Cesare Casula, La politica religiosa del giudicato di Torres, ne I Cistercensi in Sardegna, Nuoro, 1990
  7. ^ Cherchi Paba F., La Chiesa Greca, Cagliari, 1962


The giudicato of Arborea ceased to exist in 1420, after the sale to the Aragonese of the last territories for 100,000 gold florins by the last judge William II of Narbonne.

Arborea last longer and between 1323 and 1326 participated in alliance with the Crown of Aragon at the conquest of the pisan possessions in Sardinia (the former giudicati of Gallura and Calari). However threatened by the Aragonese claims of suzerainty and consolidation of in rest of the island, the giudicato of Arborea, under Marianus IV of Arborea, in 1353 broke the alliance with the Aragonese and together with the Doria declared war to the Iberians. In 1368 an Aborea offensive succeeded in nearly driving out the Aragonese from the island, reducing the "Kingdom of Sardinia" to just the port cities of Cagliari and Alghero and incorporating everything else into their own kingdom. A peace treaty returned the Aragonese their previous possessions in 1388, but tensions continued and in 1391 the Arborean army led by Brancaleone Doria again swept the most of the island into Arborean rule. This situation lasted until 1409 when the army of the giudicato of Arborea suffered a heavy defeat by the Aragonese army in the Battle of Sanluri.

From the second half of the thirteenth century the three giudicati of Logudoro, Gallura and Calari finished their autonomous existence due to the diplomatic maneuvers of Genoa and Pisa on the territory, on trade, on the episcopal curiae and the giudical chancelleries. The giudicato of Logudoro ended effectively with the direct management of his territories by the genoese families of the Doria and the Malaspina. Gallura went to the Visconti family of Pisa. Cagliari was conquered by a Pisan-Sardinian alliance in 1258 and his territory was divided between the winners.

Pisa and Genoa began to infiltrate the Judicial politics and economy since the eleventh century as a result of their intervention, in support of the giudicati, against Taifa of Dénia who was trying to conquer the island.

In red the Sardinian territories controlled directly by Pisa in the early 14th century, before the Aragonese invasion, green the Della Gherardesca, in blue the giudicato of Arborea, in purple the Malaspina, yellow the Doria, Black comune of Sassari

Pisan-Genoese and Aragonese interference and end of the Giudicati

After the disuse of the Byzantine Greek, in the giudicati, along with the use of the Medieval Latin, developed the Sardinian language which became the official national language in all its variants, being also used in legal and administrative acts, as the Condaghe, the municipal statutes and the laws of the Kingdoms such as the Carta de Logu.


The first act of donation know it was made in 1064 by Barisone I of Torres who gave to the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino, a large area of its territory with churches (including the Byzantine church of Nostra Segnora de Mesumundu), not far by the then capital of Ardara. From then, for several centuries representatives of many religious orders including the monks of the Abbey of Montecassino, the Camaldolese, the Vallombrosians, the Vittorini of Marseille, the Cistercians of Bernard of Clairvaux arrived and settled in Sardinia. As a result of this phenomenon the Romanesque architecture flourished in the island.

The Church of Sardinia was for five centuries an autocephalous institution, independent from both the Byzantine and the Roman Curia.[7] In the eleventh century, after the schism of 1054, the Judikes, according to Pope Alexander II, began a policy for the development of Western monasticism in the island, with the aim of a wider dissemination of culture but also of new techniques cultivation of the land. the Immigration of monastics in the island was fueled by donating funds, servants and local churches were built by the giudical aristocracy. However, there were still strong ties with the Eastern liturgy. In 1092 a Papal Bull expressly abolished the autonomy and autocephaly of the Church in Sardinia, which was placed under the primacy of the Archbishop of Pisa.

Christianity spread in most of the island since the early centuries, excluding much of the Barbagia until the end of the sixth century when Pope Gregory I reached an agreement with Ospitone, chief of the barbaricini, that guaranteed the conversion of his people from Paganism to Christianity. Since Sardinia was in the political sphere of the Byzantine Empire, it developed an array of Greek and Eastern Christianity thanks to the work of evangelization of the Basilian monks.



In case of conflict of particular relevance the judges often use mercenarie troops, such as the dreaded Genoese crossbowmen.

The militias of the ground and the infantry (Birrudos) used this same weapon in a shorter version. Besides the use of spears and shields another common feature was the leppa, a sword with bone handle and curved blade, long between 50 and 70 cm, still in use, in a more contained dimension, until the end of nineteenth century and today in the compact version of greenhouse-handle. In Sardinia was also produced a good type of longbow, and over time spread the use of the crossbow.

The Sardinian giudical armies were composed of troops made up of soldiers and free citizens, subject to periodic rotation and, in an emergency, it was applied the forced conscription of the servants of the realm. The elite corps was made up of so-called Bujakesos, chosen riders who served under the command of the janna de Majore, the commander in charge of the security of the sovereign. The main armament were the sword, the chain mail, the shield, the helmet and the birrudu, a weapon similar to the ancient verutum, the Roman javelin.

Giudical army

Castle of Monreale, Sardara


The Curadore appointed for each village part of the Curadorias a majore de Bidda (the modern equivalent of a mayor) with administrative and judicial investigation, with direct responsibility on the successful actions of land management.

The territory of various Giudicati was divided into Curadorias, administrative districts of varying extent formed by urban and rural villages, dependent on a capital which housed the Curadore. These administrators, aided especially by judicial jurados and a council said Corona de curatoria, represented locally the Judicial authority and tended the public property of the Crown.


Local administration

In the government of the territory the Judge was assisted by the Chancellery. The sovereign authority was in fact formalized with the drafting of official acts called bullata paper, written by the statal Chancellor, usually a bishop or at least a senior member of the clergy, assisted by other officials called majores.

The giudical Chancellery

The succession to the throne was dynastic but in some case there was the possibility of election by the Corona De Logu.

Judge was not an absolute ruler of feudal tradition, at least in form: he could not declare war or sign a peace teatry without the consent of the Corona de Logu, that however was composed primarily from aristocracies relatives to him and, therefore, linked by common interests.



As said, the judge ruled on the basis of a covenant with the people (the bannus-consensus), failed which the sovereign could be dethroned and even, in cases of serious acts of tyranny and oppression, legitimately executed by the same people, without this prejudging the inheritance of the title within the same ruling dynasty.

During Su Collectu (coronation ceremony) came together in the capital a representative of each Curadorias, the members of the high clergy, the castle lords, two representatives of the capital elected by delegates from jurados Coronas de curatoria, then the Judex was crowned with a mixed-elected hereditary sistem following the direct male line and, only in the alternative, the female line.

The central government and the entire Judicial society were naturally ruled substantially by the Judge, but the king did not have possession of the land nor he was neither the depositary of the sovereignty since this was formally of the Corona de Logu, a council of elders (representatives of the administrative districts said Curadorias) and high priests, who appointed the ruler and attributed him the supreme power, while maintaining the power to ratify the acts and agreements concerned relate to the entire kingdom.

The Corona de Logu and the central council


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