The Romanesque Church of San Pietro ad Oratorium

We shall begin  our little journey around Italy’s “Little Tibet”with a magnificent Romanesque church near the town of  Capistrano (Aquilla province). Our guide Francesca has explained me the difference between the words “Roman” and “Romanesque”. The Roman style of architecture dates back to the Roman Empire, whereas the Romanesque style, which borrowed some elements from its predecessor, relates to the Middle Ages (XI-XII centuries).

The Wikipedia says, “Combining features of Western Roman and Byzantine buildings, Romanesque architecture is known by its massive quality, its thick walls, round arches, sturdy piers, groin vaults, large towers and decorative arcading. Each building has clearly defined forms and they are frequently of very regular, symmetrical plan so that the overall appearance is one of simplicity when compared with the Gothic buildings that were to follow… Many castles were built during this period, but they are greatly outnumbered by churches. The most significant are the great abbey churches, many of which are still standing, more or less complete and frequently in use”.

The church of San Pietro ad Oratorium completely meets all the criteria of a Romanesque church. It is massive, fortress-like and severe. All these qualities can be observed from the first glance. The church is displaced to the road with its rear elevation and looks rather gloomy. All you can see are three large apses with narrow loophole windows.

The church was founded in 752 by Desiderius, the last king of the Lombards. It is supposed that it was built on the ruins of a pagan temple which had existed on the site before the 8th century A.D.

The facade is extremely simple with only one entrance in the center  and a rectangular little window. Many stones inserted in the church walls were reused from previous Roman constructions and fragments of the preceding building; among them are remarkable blocks with ribbon-like, weaving decorations going back to the 9th century.

The interior of the building is very sober with stone floors and a wooden trusses coverage. The church has three aisles with three apses. The aisles are divided into seven arcades on every side supported by four-sided pillars. The church disposes  the most ancient cycle of frescoes in Abruzzo dating back to the first half of the 12th century.


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