You probably won’t examine each and every one of the nearly 200 niches containing the relics of saints, but your visit to the crypt of the Santa Maria Cathedral, located in Piazza Palazzo in Cagliari, will be unforgettable. Truth is, no other church in Europe can boast anything like it. Aside from admiring the sheer elegance and splendour of the Baroque decorations, you’ll also be amazed at what brought about its construction: an archbishop-archaeologist wanted to be the primate of the Sardinian Church. Throughout history, relics have always been objects of deep veneration and great prestige. This was true for the early 1600s as well. The archbishop of Sassari could boast those of saints Gavino, Proto and Gianuario in the basilica of Porto Torres, thus claiming the title of Primate of the Sardinian Church. But the archbishop of Cagliari, Francisco d’Esquivel, from a noble Spanish family, disagreed. So, he searched and found the burial places of all the saints of Cagliari. In order to preserve and venerate them, he had the Shrine of the Martyrs built, a crypt dug into the rock under the cathedral’s presbytery. In 192 separate niches he placed the relics of the martyrs, each with a marble plaque bearing their name and the symbols of their martyrdom in bas relief.