A Castle for Berengario
Welcome to the Castle of San Michele, in Sardinian Santu Miali, the residence of one of the most important aristocratic families in Sardinia between the 14th and 16th centuries: the Carroz.
The Carroz family arrived on the island from Valencia after the Aragonese conquest, which Berengario, Admiral Francesco Carroz’s eldest son, actively took part in.
To repay him for his efforts during the war, Infante Alfonso of Aragon gifted him a 120m limestone hill, located at the gates of Cagliari, where a castle could be built.
Shortly afterwards, Infante Alfonso wrote to Francesco Carroz complaining that his son had yet to equip the manor with towers and a moat and could not provide adequate defense.
Alfonso’s worries were due to many different reasons: the hill was in fact in a highly strategic position, not far from the northern entrance to the Castell de Caller (the Castle of Cagliari), which had just been taken from the Pisans, and thanks to its height it could visually dominate a vast territory; moreover, the Diocese of Cagliari claimed ownership of the hill, as the castle was built on a pre-existing church dedicated to San Michele.
The residence was probably fortified after this warning, becoming an important outpost in the war between the Crown of Aragon and the Judicate of Arborea, the last territory to capitulate under the blows of the Aragonese army in the early 1400s.
Meanwhile, the Carroz extended their possessions: while initially their fiefdom only comprised the territories Utasusu and Utaiusu (corresponding to today’s Uta, Decimomannu, Sestu and Selargius), in 1363 Berengario’s son (Berengario II) was awarded by Peter IV the title of Count of Quirra, a huge fiefdom that will eventually include part of the Campidano of Cagliari, Ogliastra, Quirra, Sarrabus and Marmilla. A boundless territory, which allowed the Carroz to become the greatest feudal lords in Sardinia.
While the Carroz family chose the castle of San Michele as their privileged residence, the cadet branch of the family, the one descending from Admiral Francesco’s second son, opted for the Castle of Cagliari and settled inside it with its court. The cadet branch married into the dynasty of the Judges of Arborea and therefore, to mark the difference from the main branch, took the name of Carroz d’Arborea.
Remember this name because it will storm into the history of this castle and its family.
– The events connected to the Aragonese conquest of Sardinia are narrated in the best seller “Cathedral of the Sea” by Iberian writer Ildefonso Falcones
– The remains of the church of San Michele, probably built by the Vittorini monks between the 11th and 12th centuries, are still visible on the western side of the Castle, both inside and outside
– On clear days, the castle of Siliqua, standing on a promontory about 35 kilometers away, can be spotted from the San Michele hill
– The castle has only three towers. The north-western tower was never built