ASANTA MARIA IN RIO SACRO ABBEY
|A Romanesque church founded by the Benedictines around the year 1000 with the name of “S.Maria de Merigu”, and the site of their convent until about 1500. The monks had settled in the valley of Fiastrone before the year 1000, choosing for their initial dwellings the rocky area of the Valley of Rio Sacro, located between the slopes of M. Ragnolo and M. Validifibbia at an altitude of about 900-1000 m, where they built the ancient monastery of S.Salvatore di Rio Sacro. Although no certain date can given for its foundation, it can be dated prior to 985 from a document that records the exchange of goods between the Farfensi monks and the Piastrone monks. The ruins of the ancient Abbey that was a social center for the whole valley are still visibile in the area of the Cascinali; according to a papal bull of 1192 the Abbey had 9 churches under its jurisdiction, including S.Maria de Merigu. The glory days of monastic life in the Abbey continued until 1500, when it was handed over to the Commendatari Abbots, who squandered all of its wealth and forced the monks to move into the present day church of S. Maria di Meriggio, which at that time went by the name of S.Maria di Rio Sacro. The thousand-year-old church of S.Maria di Meriggio was restored in 1956: the roof was repaired, the walls re-erected, the apse corrected and its simplicity restored. Of the ancient Abbey only a magnificent crucifix the SS.Salvatore remains, preserved in the votive chapel of the church, where it was transported by monks during the move from the old monastery. It is a precious wooden sculpture, dating back before the year 1000, and much worshipped by the town’s inhabitants. In addition to this, the church preserves a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child from the 15th century on the altar and a panel attributed to Nobile da Lucca from the same period, which rests on an altar step signed by Andrea de Magistris in 1555. Among these artworks is a wall fresco of 1490 by Girolamo di Giovanni, which was removed from the church of S.Michele. The Abbey S.Maria di Meriggio possesses another treasure that restorations have brought to light: the crypt. Romanesque, from the 9th century, it is located under the central apse and is divided into three small naves by columns and slender pillars in spongy stone. It is lit by a small window above a monolithic altar.|
CHURC OF MADONNA DEL VALLONE
Along the street that crosses the frazione of Piedicolle, where the road turns sharply, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Vallone emerges from the greenery of a deep indentation in the land. This church began its activities in 1747, as indicated by records from the parochial archives. The bell tower of the church was not erected beside it, but several hundred meters behind it, higher up on the slope towards Campicino, so that the bells could be heard by the whole town; the date of its construction - 1731 - is inscribed on a brick. The church has a Romanesque style door and a single nave. In the apse, a baroque altar preserves a painting representing the Virgin Mary and Child (Madonna col Bambino), possibly from the 1500s; there are also painted murals that were added in modern times (this century).
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Revised -- 20/08/2007