Church of San Leonardo
Three kilometres as the crow flies from the palace of Baldu there is the castle of Balaiana, still linked by a footpath to the church of San Leonardo, located a few dozen metres to the north (fig. 1).
The devotional space, also known as Santu Ninaldu, stands atop a granite outcrop which dominates much of the territory of Luogosanto (fig. 2); it is located in the Balaiana region, and may be reached on foot via a steep path.
Probably it was the chapel of the castle: its structure with a single nave is small and consists solely of granite ashlars, it has an entrance on the south side, the apse is oriented to the east and a projecting rectangular forepart leans on the west side of the building (fig. 3); internally it has a barrel-vault and is covered by a sloping roof with local stone fragments. Light and air inside the church were provided by a cross-shaped window on the facade and by three single-light rectangular windows, respectively in the apse (fig. 4) and on the long sides.
Its small size suggests that it was used by the castle’s garrison and its shape leads to the possibility of dating it back to the second half of the twelfth century A.D. Similar structures were found in nearby Corsica, leading to assume the presence of craftsmen skilled in the use of granite who operated during the Romanesque period.
The church lacks the statue, which, according to a folk tale, was stolen during the second half of the nineteenth century by the inhabitants of Luras who exhibited it in their place of worship dedicated to the same Saint.
The cult of St. Leonard spread in Italy between the eleventh and twelfth centuries; the saint, a native of Gaul, lived between the fifth and sixth centuries, and led a hermit's life for most of his existence. Later, thanks to a donation given by King Clovis, he created a monastery and became Abbot. He is considered the protector of prisoners, this is why he is shown in chains; sometimes he is garbed as a deacon, more often he wears the robe of a monk.
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