|In 1652 Sardinia was afflicted by a
plague. Half the population of Cagliari died. Everywhere there was death and desperation. Then
the people turned to Efisio di Elia, a martyred saint, who had been beheaded in the year 303 in
Nora which is on the coast of Cagliari for refusing to deny the Christian Faith. Efisio was the
commanding officer of a garrison of the Roman Emperor Diocleziano's army and was in
Sardinia to suppress the Christian communities on the island. However, during a trip he had a
vision similar to the one Paul had on the way to Damascus. After seeing the vision Efisio
changed from persecutor into the most ardent follower of Christ. When he was asked to deny the
Christian Faith he refused and was sentenced to death. He was imprisoned in Cagliari (where
today there is a church dedicated to him) and was then moved secretly to the coast of Cagliari
in order to prevent the people from protesting against his sentence. Efisio was beheaded by a
Roman soldier on the beach of Nora.
|The worship of Sant' Efisio spread
throughout Cagliari and Sardinia. The crypt in Stampace, which was the prison where Efisio was
kept, became a centre of spirituality and afterwards, in Nora, the place of Efisio's martyrdom, a
charming little aisleless church, nowadays submerged below the sea, was built.
The name of Sant' Efisio became inextricably linked with Cagliari and Sardinia after the plague
of 1650 which was the same plague Manzoni described in his famous book
"I Promessi Sposi".