RELIGIOUS TOURISM In Abruzzo

The Church of Santa Maria a Vico.

The Church of Santa Maria a Vico is situated in the countryside of Sant’Omero, in the province of Teramo. Built on the remains of a pagan temple dedicated to Hercules, the Church is seen as the only monument in Abruzzo dated before 1000 survived almost intact.

Aesthetically it is very simple: an extended rectangle divided into three naves with the central one ending with the apse. On either side, the passages  are marked by two rows of six pillars, without a base and surmounted by stone squared capitals. The five windows, closed by travertine barriers, ensure internally a poor light, however the broad rose window of the main façade compensates for it.

The ancient architects who worked in the countryside of Sant’ Omero decided to do things in big from the start,  especially focusing on the interior, and put in the construction site the building of a church that had already from the beginning three naves, divided by six pillars made of brick and resting on simple and almost rough capitals. Then, perhaps even in the fourteenth century, it was decided to give it a proper façade, together with the bell tower.

That is why we can note today such a striking difference between the brick exterior and the stone interior, except for the columns that are also made of brick. The façade is decorated with curious herringbone brick decorations, never seen before in Abruzzo except in the church of San Leucio in Atessa. The decoration of the portal has an ancient taste, where you can see the stone blocks carved “in negative relief”, that is with the images set in the stone instead of relief as always.

The bell tower was added in the fourteenth century, together with an important restoration work of the façade.

The interior of the Church was decorated with frescos of exquisite workmanship such as Madonna and Child Enthroned, while she is caught in her affectionate gesture to tighten him to her face, an Annunciation and a second  Madonna on the throne with the Child. Unfortunately, their conservation status only allows to highlight the indisputable Giotto signs, almost probably absorbed from Umbria.

Some parts of other frescos, located under the arch of the last passage on the left, appear to refer to another artist and next to years to mid-fourteenth century. Other remains are the half-lenght Blessing Christ within a clypeus  and St. John the Evangelist

In the portal, you can see some stone blocks carved in “negative relief”, that is with the images set in the stone instead of relief. One of them is the lamb with the Cross, the so-called Agnus Dei, that is the Lamb of God. Then there are the symbols of the Evangelists:  St. Mark’s winged lion, St. Luke’s winged ox and St. John’s eagle, as well as various geometric and floral motives. Historians relate this type of decoration to the revival of early Christian elements due to the Gregorian reform that inspired in the Montecassino Abbey.

Scala Santa Campli

The Holy Stairs is one of the few authorized, other than the one in Rome, that allows to receive a Plenary Indulgence, according to the authorization of Pope Clement XVII in 1772.

Placed next to St. Paul Church, the Stairs consists of twenty-eight hard oak steps that, according to the will of the Pope, has to be climbed by the people on their own knees and with bowed head (women with covered head), praying and asking for forgiveness of their sins. A tough penitence, but the rewards for the faithful are the remission of their sins and the Plenary Indulgence, with the same value as the one obtained at the best-known Holy Stairs of Rome.

Fascinating is the symbology that motivates each single element of the Stairs and its decoration, through the characters of six paintings, three on the right and three on the left of the staircase, which tell many highlights moments of Christ’s Passion, almost accompanying the faithful in the ascent: the Capture of Jesus in the Garden, the prayer of Christ and the comforter Angel,  the Ecce Homo, the Flagellation, the Crucifixion, the ascent to the Calvary and the encounter with His Mother. On the wooden ceiling, are painted angels bearing the symbols of martyrdom.

The entire cycle of paintings was entrusted to master  Vincenzo Baldati, from Teramo, who completed the work in 1781. After the last step, there is the presence of the “Sancta Sanctorum”, the altar of the Saviour, the only one able to absolve from the sins. Here there is preserved a wooden reliquiaria cross, a work of the Neapolitan school, with silver trim and containing two splinters of the True Cross of Christ.

After paying respect to the life-size portraits of Pope Clement XIV and St. Helena, the faithful, with a purified soul, descends, this time standing, the 19 stone steps leading up to the light. The walls are now painted with four medallions, in bright colors, representing the episodes of the Resurrection: the apparition to Mary Magdalene, the Resurrection, the apparition to Peter and the encounter with the disciples of Emmaus. Above the door, there is the symbol of the SS Stigmata of St. Francis confraternity, who is the guardian of the stairs.

In the Shrine of Campli, unlike the one in Rome, you can obtain a plenary indulgence only on certain days of the year, established by the Church, while the partial one can be obtained every day. The plenary indulgence is granted:

the third weekend after Easter, from Saturday afternoon to Monday evening;

the third weekend of September, from Saturday afternoon to Monday evening;

the third weekend of October, from Saturday afternoon to Monday evening;

the weekend of Pentecost (about fifty days after Easter), from Saturday until Tuesday evening Vespers; ( from the Saturday Vespers until Tuesday evening)

(From 14 January 2002) all Fridays of Lent

Santuario di San Gabriele

The shrine of St. Gabriel is located in the beautiful setting of the Gran Sasso in the province of Teramo. The pilgrims come to the shrine also attracted by the enchanting natural position. Located at the foot of the Gran Sasso, the shrine is surrounded by a fascinating landscape.

From here in 15 minutes, you can reach the Gran Sasso National Park, with its extensive forests and clear water springs. In 15 minutes, you can also reach the characteristic town of Castelli, worldwide famous for the production of artistic ceramics. From the sanctuary, in 30 minutes, you arrive at the base of the Campo Imperatore cable car (AQ) and from there you can quickly reach the modern ski lifts.

The foundation of the Convent of Isola del Gran Sasso, according to legend,  would be linked to the presence of  St. Francis. For many centuries it was entrusted to the conventuals who had to abandon it after the suppression of the religious orders by the French. In 1847 he was entrusted to the Passionist  Fathers. Today it is tied to the figure of St. Gabriel, whose remains are conserved. The shrine located at the foot of Gran Sasso, in the province of Teramo, is among the most popular in Italy and Europe.

The shrine of San Gabriele is at the center of a sacred triangle that includes three of the most famous shrines in Europe: Loreto, San Gabriel, San Giovanni Rotondo. Every year about thirteen million pilgrims visit these three shrines. For several years, pilgrims, spontaneously, have discovered this route and cross it from north to south back and forth. The sanctuary of San Gabriele is located in a privileged geographical position, just 3 km from the motorway A24 Rome-L’Aquila-Teramo and 40 kilometers from the Adriatic A14.

A recent ranking places it among the top fifteen most visited shrines in the world. Two million pilgrims arrive there each year to pray at the tomb of the young student Passionist St. Gabriel. His fame knows no boundaries. The most striking aspect for those coming to the sanctuary is the massive presence of young people. The Saint is first the Saint of youths. Hundreds of thousands of young people come to him every year to pray.

Every year, in early March, thousands of students from high schools of Abruzzo and Marche come to the shrine for a day of spirituality, “one hundred days from the final exams”. Every year, in late August, thousands of young people from all over Italy camp there for five days  in the occasion of the Tent City-Festival of young people, giving life to a religious meeting made of meetings, conferences, prayer and testimonies.

Holy House of Loreto

The beautiful city of Loreto, immersed in the countryside of the Marche region, owes its fame to the shrine where the Holy House of the Virgin Mary is preserved and venerated. A sacred place, called by Pope John Paul II the “true Marian heart of Christianity”. The sanctuary has been for centuries and is still one of the places of pilgrimage among the most important of the Catholic world, visited by about 200 saints and beatified people, and several Popes as well.

The Shrine of Loreto preserves, according to ancient tradition and confirmed today by historical and archaeological research, the Nazareth house of Our Lady. The whole city of Loreto, immersed in the tranquility of the beautiful countryside of Marche, has developed around the Sanctuary of the Holy House, which stands on a hill and offers a splendid panorama that spans from the sea to Monte Conero, to the Umbria-Marche Apennines. Loreto today attracts thousands of tourists, not only Catholics, because this large sanctuary is a treasure chest that contains a priceless treasure. In addition to the Holy house, destination of devotion for pilgrims, this place is actually a true anthology of sacred art that contains masterpieces of architecture, sculpture and painting with famous names of art history.