Known for centuries as Orani Mannu (‘large’) for its size and importance, the town was among the the most extended of Central-Northern Sardinia until the 18th century. The origins of the village date back to the Prehistoric Age as documented by the archaeological finds in the various historical districts. The whole territory has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age for the presence of mines of steatite, which were producing the extraordinary statues of goddess mothers; ancient gods of protosardi.
Lots of archaeological remains are from the Early Neolithic Era to the Nuragic Age: domus de janas, dolmen, nuraghi, villages, tombe dei giganti and nuraghic sanctuaries (including the important complex of Nurdole). There is no lack of Roman presence to which belong the spa establishment Oddini and military station of Leisone.
In the XII century the name of the villa de Orane appears several times in condaghes, registers of the churches. In those years there are dated history of the construction of the church dedicated to the Madonna in the spectacular Monte Gonare, by the name of the Judge Torres, who according to the folktale, erected it as a votive gesture after he had escaped a sinking ship returning from the second Crusade. Sos contos de fochile, the narratives of the hearth, narrate the musca machedda (‘crazy mosquito’) that caused the ruin of many medieval villages and the transfer of their inhabitants in the town. It was certainly the serious famines and plagues that spread in Europe between the 14th and 15th century that caused the depopulation of the rural district and the growth of Orani.
During the Middle Ages the villa became way more important: it was one of the main centers of the curatoria di Dore (inside of the Giudicato of Torres). After the disappearance of the Giudicato logudorese, during the period of war with the Kingdom of Aragon (XIV century) it was annexed by Mariano IV and participated in the epic of the Giudicato of Arborea, which then passed under foreign control with the end of the conflict (XV century).
In 1478, after the defeat of Leonardo Alagon which had attempted to revolt the Sardinians against the invaders, the territory was granted as a fief to the Carroz and became part of the Ducato di Mandas. Then started the centuries of oppression of the feudal lords during which there were several noble families; the last was that of the De Silva that in 1617 obtained the Royal Diploma with which the Marchesato of Orani was established. The village became the seat of regidor, the governor of curatorial areas, and the court. The imposition of increasing heavy taxes provoked numerous revolts and rebellions until the abolition of feudalism in 1839.
A great transformation in the economy of the town took place in the beginning of the 20thCentury with the exploitation of mineral resources of the region. From the mines of San Francesco, Sa Matta and San Paolo an important amount of talc were extracted, which is one of the largest producers in Europe. After the Second World War the harsh working conditions of miners led to the trade union claims of the fifties.
Another important resource for the country is the craft of wood and wrought iron. It is still a reason of pride today among the many traditional productions and very appreciated by the Sardinians as well as tourists.
Lush forests, fertile hills and rich deposits of precious minerals act as a frame to the town of Orani, located in a lovely valley between the green relief Sa Costa and the offshoots north west of Mount Gonare.
The exceptional resources of its territory have weighed down heavily on the history and development of the town, inhabited since prehistoric times. The fascinating little statues of goddesses mothers made with the steatite extracted from nearby mines from the Neolithic period, are today valued and included in the Parco Geominerario della Sardegna. From the mining sites of San Francesco and Sa Matta were extracted until last century a huge quantity of talc , called sa predda modde or white gold, which made Orani one of the most important european deposits. The landscape is mostly made of hills and mountains characterized by the presence of a huge richness of minerals and varieties of rocks: granite, dolomite, limestone, tuff, schist, trachyte etc. This area is part of the most ancient landmass of the island where five metamorphic soils can be found. Enriching the entire area with fresh water sources , in addition to the thermal springs of Sos Banzos and Sos Banzicheddos is the karst source of Sa Varva. Beautiful woods, Oak trees and Mediterranean vegetation surround the village kept by the surrounding mountains where you can meet the lovely country churches of San Francesco, in the homonymous mountain to the south-east, and San Paolo, on the rocky ridge to the west, where you can enjoy spectacular views. Towards the south-east border with the communal lands of Sarule, you find the three characteristic cone-shaped peaks of Mount Gonare (1,083 m), Gonareddu (1,045 m) and tip Lotzori (976 m) which gives a great charming scenario. The steep walls of the southern side are transformed into sweet declines to the west toward the hillside of San Francesco; covered by holm-oak woods, oaks, holm-oaks, maples and holly including medicinal plants, herbs and other endemic species. Here live wild boars, weasels, foxes, martens, rabbits, hares, wild cats and many varieties of birds. For its specific environment Mount Gonare has obtained the european recognition of SIC, Site of Community Interest. At the top you will find the ancient sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Gonare venerated in the surroundings, which according to tradition was erected as a votive offering by the judge of Torres Gonario II. The Sardinian king returned from the second Crusade, and scared of sinking due to a large storm, promised the Holy Virgin that if he survived, he would erect a temple in the very first piece of land that he saw. It now seems, that the sovereign sighted the mountain that he took the name from. Every year hundreds of devoted and visiting gather in the nearby cumbessias (houses that receive the pilgrims) on the occasion of the different events and festivals. The most involving September 8th, managed alternatively year by year by the municipalities of Sarule and Orani. From the numerous panoramic spots you can admire the profiles of the coasts and most scenic mountain peaks of the Island.
Home of artists, intellectuals and skilled craftsmen, Orani gave birth to two great masters of the Sardinian art.: Costantino Nivola and Mario Delitala. The Museum Nivola was dedicated to the world famous sculptor. His works are housed in the impressive structure of the old communal washing house situated in the hills of Su Cantaru, surrounded by charming outdoor spaces in which are located some monumental works including the famous mothers that refer to ancestral mediterranean goddesses. An interesting collection of woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and oil paintings of the artist Mario Delitala, are set up in the former Franciscan convent in the town center.
The Oranesi are known for the excellence of their craftsmen who handed over and innovated the ancient crafts. Among those who have given luster to the town are the tailor Paolo Modolo, very appreciated for his creations in velvet with references to the traditional clothing created in original and contemporary forms. The various shops and laboratories of the wrought iron, wooden carving and ceramics are scattered between the beautiful alleys where you meet the small houses in granite and local stone but also several buildings of the early Twentieth Century.
In addition to the already mentioned collections of art, the historical town preserves precious and important specimens of sacred architecture. By observing the village from one of the many panoramic spots that surround it, you can distinguish the small roofs with old tiles of the oldest areas from the big and modern buildings; on all stand out the eight bell towers of the surviving churches, there were still about 20 in the 19th Century (between those of towns and the countryside ones). An imaginary path that passes through all the churches in the town explores the history of the community by exploring the different styles and construction methods. In a depression at the entrance of the village are the ruins of the fascinating church of Saint Andrea l’Apostolo erected between the end of the XVI and the beginning of the XVII century. It is called Campusantu Vezzu or Aragonese Tower referring to the better preserved structure of the tower in volcanic rock, adorned by frames and the beautiful spire with gattoni, typical of the gothic style. The church was abandoned at the beginning of the 19th Century; in its place a new parish church was built in the neoclassical style always dedicated to the Saint: the work started in 1867 and was concluded in 1930. The enchanting prospectus of the 17 th century Chiesa del Rosario, the headquarters of the confraternity, is characterized by elements in vulcanite: a small rose window and a portal in 16th century style surmounted by a thin frame on which rest four blackbirds, at the center of which is a bell tower. Overlooking a large square, in the place where the ancient church of San Sisto stood, is the 18 th century shrine of San Giovanni Battista, standing next to the former Franciscan convent which currently houses the Art Gallery and the Municipal Offices. Then we have the lovely church of Nostra Signora d’Itria. Built in the first half of the XVII century, the town owes its fame to the decoration by graffiti of its façade, built in 1986 by the great artist Costantino Nivola from Orani.
All the territory preserves important remains of the past: from the ancient mines, now integrated into the itineraries of the Parco Geominerario della Sardegna, the soapstone was mined and also used to make beautiful jewelry and the extraordinary goddess mothers of the Sardinian Neolithic. Belonging to prehistoric period are the most important archaeological sites in the area: domus de janas, menhirs, and dolmens. From the Nuragic Age there are still numerous villages and nuraghi including that of Athethu, which preserves the tholos covering still intact and the spectacular Nuraghe Nurdole: a complex structure of our towers with a sacred source that identifies it as a place of worship inside.