ORISTANO, a town and archiepiscopal see of Sardinia, situated 23 ft. above sea-level, about 3 m. from the eastern shore of a gulf on the W. coast, to which it gives its name, and 59 m. N. by W. of Cagliari by rail. Pop. (1901) 7107. The town preserves some scanty remains of the walls (dating from the end of the 13th century), by which it was surrounded, and two gates, the Porta Manna, surmounted by a lofty square tower, known also as the Torre S. Cristoforo, and the Porta Marina. The houses are largely constructed of sun-dried bricks, and are low, so that the area of the town is considerable in proportion to its population.
The cathedral was reconstructed in 1733 in the baroque style, and scanty traces of the original building of the 12th century exist (see D. Scano in U Arte, igoi, p. 359; 1903, p. 15): and also in Sloria dell' arte in Sardegna dal XI. al XI V. secolo, CagliariSassari, 1907). Some statuettes and sculptured slabs partly belonging to its pulpit, perhaps the work of Andrea Pisano, have been found; upon the reverse side of two of the slabs are still older reliefs of the Sth or 9th century; so that the slabs perhaps originally came from Tharros. In the sacristy is some fine silverwork. The church of S. Francesco also dates from the end of the 13th century, but has been altered. A line statue by Nino, son of Andrea, is preserved here. Two m. south of Oristano is the village of S. Giusta, with a beautiful Romanesque church of the Pisan period dedicated to this saint (D. Scano, Bollettino dell' arte, Feb. 1907, p. S), containing several antique columns. It was once an independent episcopal see. The lagoons on the coast are full of fish, but are a cause of malaria. The environs are fertile, and a quantity of garden produce is grown; while good wine (vernaccia) is also made, and also ordinary pottery in considerable quantities, supplying most of the island. The bridge crossing the river Tirso, a little to the north of the town, over 300 ft. long, with live arches, took the place, in 1S70, of an old one which is said to have been of Roman origin. A m. south of the mouth of this river is the landing-place for shipping. The large orange groves of Mills lie 13 m. N. of Oristano at the base of Monte Ferru, where they are sheltered from the wind. The finest belong to the Marchese Boyl, whose plantation contains some 500,000 orange and lemon trees. The inhabitants of Mihs manufacture reed baskets and mats, which they sell throughout Sardinia.
Oristano occupies the site of the Roman Othoca, the point at which the inland road and the coast road from Carales to Turris Libisonis bifurcated, but otherwise an unimportant place, overshadowed by Tharros. The medieval town is said to have been founded in 1070. It was the seat from the 11th century onwards of the giiidici (judges) of Arborea, one of the four divisions of the island. Almost the last of these judges was Eleonora (1347-1403); after her death Oristano became the seat of a marquisate, which was suppressed in 1478. The frontier castles of Monreale and Sanluri, some 20 and 30 m. respectively to the S.S.E., were the scene of much fighting between the Aragonese government and the giudici and marquises of Arborea in the 14th and 15th centuries. (T. As.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)