Since its origins the Province of Macerata’s area hosted a large number of Abbeys, religious institutions tied to Benedictine monasticim and its derivations. San Benedetto from Norcia (480-547) was able to attract those who longed for a hermit life, offering a community life and providing a time for prayers and a time for work and study. The Rule, written by San Benedetto reworking on older scriptures, became the basis text for monk’s life in cloistered communities; these communities were put under the control of an abbot and exclusively relied on the Pope. The cloisters weren’t only places where to pray but also flourishing and dynamic places that left deep traces in economic activities’ organization and promoted the diffusion of culture. Their highest enlargement was in the 11th/14th centuries. The abbeys were built in isolated locations and the surroundings areas were reclaimed and then worked for monks’ sustenance. In many cases in the course of time they obtained authority and esteem, up to having churches and land tenures depending on them. In most cases, nowadays, there are no more traces of the monastic buildings while the churches are still really interesting examples of Medieval architecture
The visitSANT’URBANO ABBEY (Montelupone)
The oldest information about this Abbey date from 1033, but at that period it already was really important, so it probably dates before the year 1000. The Abbey, having a large number of subordinated churches and castles, had a great religious and political influence. In 1219 it preferred to entrust itself to the municipality of Jesi to escape from the frequent attacks by Apiro’s municipality. Approximately at the half of the 13th century it was nearly rebuilt. The church, even if the façade and the right side are spoiled by the presence of some farmhouses, has interesting Romanesque-Gotich style forms with three apses decorated with pilaster and small archways. The interior has three naves, a wall divides the sector reserved to the devotees from the one reserved to the monks. By a passage through the wall itself, you can access to the overhead presbytery, it has three naves and it ends with an apse embellished with mullions and hanging archways. The underlying crypt is also divided into three small naves. The capitals are really outstanding and decorated with zoomorph and natural elements.
SAN FIRMANO ABBEY (Apiro)
Tha Abbey is located in the municipality of Montelupone. It was established in 986 on behalf of a pious Lady member of the Grimaldi family, which was the owner of many lands in the surroundings of Montelupone. The first abbot was Firmano, a monk hailing from Acquacanina. In 1248 the Abbey was robbed and the body of the monk was founded during the reconstruction; thereby the presbytery was lifted and a crypt was created to host the body. A lunette is on top of the gate, a Crucifixion at its centre realized carving the back side of a Roman statue; the statue is visible entering the Abbey. The church has three naves, the presbytery is higher and it’s accessible by a steep staircase. The underlying gothic style crypt is divided into five little naves by mullions, and they are also made up of Roman materials. Here you can find a polychrome terracotta ascribed to the Della Robbia brothers (15th century), and the Saint’s relics. The cloister doesn’t exist anymore.
RAMBONA ABBEY (Pollenza)
Pollenza offers us the very beautiful and suggestive Abbey of Rambona, built in an isolated location as opposed to old town centre. This Abbey sends us back to a long path of history and faith: from the pagan temple dedicated to the Bona goddess (from there to Ara Bona and then Rambona) to get to the church set up in 890 from the Longobardic Queen Ageltrude up to the Romanesque church built in the 11th-12th centuries. At present really transformed compared to its origin, the Abbey only preserves the presbytery, with three apses, and the crypt. There is no trace of the monastery and the front side of the church nowadays is a private dwelling. The crypt has a remarkable importance, some roman columns divide it into five small naves; the columns originate from the Bona goddess’ temple and they have Romanesque capitals on top, variously decorated and coloured too.
ABBEY DELLE MACCHIE (San Ginesio)
The exact date of its construction is not known, but in 13th century the Abbey shows to still have its abbots and many assets, this wealth was managed with the participation of San Ginesio’s authority. The architecture has really changed following a refurbishment in 1658, during which the façade was raised and an arched tympanum was added. The decoration of the central portal is still recognisable, with traces of a Romanesque rose window. The interior has only one nave, with a higher presbytery divided in three parts. The 12th century crypt, is divided into seven little naves by some columns in clay and marble. Some capitals probably come from Urbs Salvia’s ruins. One of the marble column, which probably was formerly a milestone, still has an inscription dedicate to the Emperor Costanzo II (337-361 a.C.), whereas the capital on top has been identified as an “omphalos”, a stone tied to Apollo’s cult. Some more marble scraps are visible in the cloister’s façade, totally refurbished in the 17th century
ABBEY SANTA MARIA OR SAN BIAGIO DI PIOBBICO (Sarnano)
It was established at approximately the year 1000, it’s called Santa Maria “Inter Rivora” because it’s located between two rivers, the Tennacola and the Lardina. Later also “Publica” was added to its name, as it was the former name of the town of Piobbico. At last it was consecrated to San Biagio, as the body of the Saint is venerated in the crypt. The Abbey got to the top of its splendour in the course of 15th century, during which it was owner of large properties and many churches, whose extension arrived up to Montolmo (today’s Corridonia) and Mogliano. The relationship with the close town of Sarnano was always very intense and in 1268, the Bishop Guido of Camerino authorizes the monks to build an oratory inside the town; hereafter it will become the church of Santa Maria in Piazza Alta. Of the ancient Abbey only the church remains, it has one single nave with a truss roofing, There is a crypt under the higher presbytery, of outstanding appeal. Some columns made up of tuff and stone divide the crypt in three naves. The frescoes painted on the right wall of the church and on the walls of the presbytery are really remarkable, they are in umbro-marchigiana school style (of the Umbria and Marche regions), dated approximately in the 14th and 15th centuries.
ABBEY OF CHIARAVALLE DI FIASTRA (Tolentino-Urbisaglia)
The Abbey of Chiaravalle di Fiastra and all the territory that surround sit, it’s a perfect summary of faith, architecture and nature. The Abbey was established in 1142 by a group of monks coming from the Cistercian Abbey of Chiaravalle in Milan. The church, a great example of Romanesque Cisteracian art, presents itself majestic but essential at same time. It’s almost free from frescoes and decorations, as it is the spirit on Cistercians. For the construction the complex they also used material coming from the ruins of the Roman town of Urbs Salvia, which is not far. In the belonging cloister you can visit the “Sala del Capitolo”, the dining hall, the caves, the cellars (with a Wine Museum), the “Sala delle Oliere” with the archaeological collection. Nowadays a community of Cistercian monks still live there permanently. All the complex perfectly integrate in the surrounding Nature reserve, ward of the Marche region. It was created in 1984 to safeguard the natural environment, the Abbey with the signs of the long presence of the monks and in particular the “Selva”, a 100 hectares wood. The Reserve offers to the visitors place where to stop and rest, nature trails of various length, information services and guides visits.
SAN CLAUDIO DI CHIENTI (Corridonia)
It’s known a san Abbey, but actually there any certain news about the presence of a Monastic community. It’s located in the same territory where the Roman town of Pausulae rised, it’s chronicled since the 11th century. The building still has its previous appearance, almost untouched, its distinctive trait is the have two overlaid churches. Nowadays you can go up to the upper church through a side stair, which was added in 13th century together with the walkway and the upper portal. At that period the church was partly refurbished on behalf of the bishop of Fermo. The façade is enriched by the two corner cylindrical towers, in Ravennate style. Before the construction of the outside stair, the inner winding staircase was the only connection between the two floors. The square-shaped building, is externally characterized by three apses decorated with hanging small archways and long pilasters (lesene). The lower church has groin vaults and in the apse there are the only frescoes representing San Claudio and San Rocco (1486). Similar examples in the Marche region are San Vittorio alle Chiuse and Santa Maria delle Moje, both located in the province of Ancona
SANTA MARIA A PIE’ DI CHIENTI (Montecosaro)
The oldest information about this Abbey date back to 936, and tell about a church and the additional cloister. A commemorative stone at the entrance of the church (up on the left) determine the date 1125 and it probably refers to the blessing of the current structure. A drawing dated 1667 shows us the fortifications that protected the Abbey edifices, the dwellings and the fields from the waters of river Chienti and from the enemy raids. The building is one of the most interesting examples of “cluniacense” architecture in the Marche region. It has a cathedral drawing with three naves. The two on the side join behind the presbytery and form a passage enriched by three little naves. The two side naves. shorter than the central one, present an upper “loggia” (matroneo) where a footfall was build to prevent the frequent floods. You can get to the “matroneo” through a side stair. The apse in the upper presbytery has frescoes dating approximately at the half of 15th century. They represent Jesus’ tales and a blessing Christ. The external back side is definitely unmissable, it shows a rich complex of apses, with many superimposed stages. The cloister was destroyed during the 19th century.
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