The Marche is a land of Saints who marked regional history and culture, since they allowed to create centers of spirituality along the valleys of this territory. Cisternians, Franciscans and others filled this area with monasteries, abbeys, convents. Some of them still open their door to visitors and guests, as in the past.
A strong push to the propagation of the movement was given by the construction of many abbeys, which were presented as real bastions of faith and religion. They also worked as aggregation centers, which were economically organized, characterized by strong social and cultural contents inside the slow and complex formation process of medieval society. For this reason the Marche started a project entitled “Monasticism in the Marche. Journey through the roots of European civilization”, underlying the presence of common artistic, cultural and environmental issues, which refer to the phenomenon of Benedictine monasticism.
PLACES TO VISIT
Recent researches revealed in the Marche the presence of nearly 100 abbeys created during the period of the greatest expansion of monasticism. Since it is not possible to mention all, we offer some information about the structures you can visit in Montefeltro.
It is told that the Benedictine abbey (its first report dates back to the year 1125) was built on the site of the pagan temple of the god Mutino. The abbey is mentioned in more than 500 notary deeds, therefore it is possible that until being abandoned, i.e. the mid-fifteenth century, it was very important. Nowadays compared to the original complex, the church, some areas of the monastery and a part of the cloister remain. Recent renovation works brought to the light the arches of inner walls of the church, which originally divided it into three naves.
The Benedictine Abbey, in a dominant position, used to monitor the road coming from the high valley of the Tiber river. The large amount of stone material and some sculptural remains betray an old foundation dated back around the year 1000. Compared to the original complex, nowadays only the Romanesque Church remains, which regained the original medieval structure thanks to a recent renovation. The simple and austere building is a basilica with three naves divided by solid square pillars with round arches, probably dated back to the 11th-12th century. Below the presbytery there are the remains of an old crypt.
The abbey is located near the Furlo Gorge. Compared to the two original naves, only the main one remains, which is divided into three covered spans. The presbytery is raised and separated from the body of the church, the apse is big and semicircular, as required by the medieval symbolism that makes it a metaphor for the sky. The gate supports a frame carved during the Roman time. The crypt below used to preserve relics of St. Romualdo of Ravenna (nowadays in the church of St. Biagio and Romualdo in Fabriano), since in 1011 he stayed in the Abbey.
The Church of S.Maria Nuova di Naro, although has been renovated very often, preserved various phases of medieval buildings. The façade and the back preserve their original structure. Comparing to the original structure with 3 naves, nowadays only central nave remains.
Stay in a monastic community can be an opportunity to make a spiritual journey in search of deepest values and trying to live the day more naturally. Some monastic structures work as accommodation facilities.
Favorite by the persistence of the road network consisting of Salaria and Flaminia roads, during the 10th and 11th century Benedictine settlements reached inner areas of the entire territory, standing in the large and flat spaces along main rivers (Esino and Chienti), such as the Abbey of St. Elena of Serra S. Quirico, the abbey of St. Maria delle Moie, the abbey of St. Vittore delle Chiuse, and so on. At the same time their diffusion happened also in mountainous areas, which were close to strategic roads of Montefeltro (St. Michele Arcangelo in Lamoli, St. Vincenzo al Furlo, St. Pietro di Massa in Cagli, St. Croce di Fonte Avellana, St. Lorenzo in Campo).
Fonte Avellana Hermitage
At the end of the classical age, the word “scriptorium” indicated the stylus used to write on the wax, and later the base of support for the work of copyist. Sitting on a bench in front of a lectern to place the original copy, the copyist used simple tools to work: a clay inkwell, a horn containing ink, quill feather, a wooden ruler and a stylus to draw rifling and building the “mirror” writing.
When they made mistakes or they wanted to use again the precious parchment, the writing was erased through a knife. Books that were modified partially or totally after scraping the page are called “palimpsests codes”.
Decorations, frames, drop caps, ornate initials, were realized by specialists able to use delicate vegetable colors, dust and gold leaf to make precious details.
From the beginning of the Middle Ages, the term “scriptorium” already indicated the place where scribes wrote codes.
The “scriptorium” of Fonte Avellana, probably built in the second half of the 11th century, was created according to the rules of “golden measure”, i.e. the “divined proportion” of Vitruvius.
The golden section, identified by the Egyptians and used by the Greeks and Romans, was revived by the Arabs in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The monks used also it spreading it all over Europe. Those mathematical and trigonometric rules that inspired the construction of Fonte Avellana, give to this scriptorium perfect harmony, brightness and acoustics, so that the place can be defined “opus scientiae et artis”. The massive block works as a clock and solar calendar thanks to its axis, which is perfectly oriented in north-and south.
The Church of St. Francesco is in Cagli. It is located in the square of St. Frances with the bronze statue of the sculptor Angelo Celli made by the sculptor Angelo Biancini and set in front of the porch of 1885 in 1959. The Church of Str. Francesco was built between 1234 and 1240. It is considered the emblem of the gothic style and it is the oldest Franciscan Church of the Marche. The elegant polygonal apse, dominated by the tall bell tower, shows a refined color balance. The marble gate (1348) with spiral columns and round pilasters, keeps a fresco attributed to Guido Palmerucci and depicting the Madonna and Child with St. Francesco and Giovanni Battista.
The monastery of St. Chiara is the old monastery of clarets of Urbino. It is one of the main monuments of the city and one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture. The history and the fate of the monastery of St. Chiara, building created on a round map by Francesco di Giorgio Martini without a certain construction date, are strongly connected to the history of the Ducal family, for being involved in the historical disputes between the Borgia and the Montefeltro during difficult years. For this reason the small monastery church was scene of kidnappings. Some important people were buried there, such as Francesco Maria I (died in 1538). The monastery changed a lot, so that it lost its original simple architectural appearance to be enriched a lot during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Church of St. Bernardino degli Zoccolanti is a Franciscan Church of Urbino, located on a hill about 2,5 km far from the town. The Church was built under the request of Federico da Montefeltro after his death, from 1482 to 1491, as the place for his burial and that of his successors. Its project and its subsequent construction are attributed to the ducal architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The building is characterized by a limpid architecture typical of the Urbino Renaissance. The Church was the model for the Church of St. “Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio” near Cortona, built by the same architect some years later. In 1741 it was damaged by an earthquake. The adjacent convent looks like in opposition to the sophistication of the Church because of its simplicity, typical of Franciscan buildings.
The Church and the convent of St. Francesco were built by the Franciscans from 1235. It preserves simple forms of transition from Romanesque to Gothic times. The gate has a fresco of the 15th century (Madonna with Child and St. Francesco and Catherine). Inside there is a single nave.
The convent of Montefiorentino dates back to its founder, St. Francis (1213). A papal seal in 1248 granted indulgences to faithful people, which contributed to its renovation. It is one of the biggest convents in the Marche, with wide indoor spaces and more than 10 hectares of land that works as park and sport area. Its structure, surrounded by greenery was changed a lot over the centuries, especially in 1600.
Contact us to plan a guided visit to one of those places.