The Magnificent Via Crucis in Giulianova
Giulianova is an elegant seaside town in Abruzzo, Italy. I especially love this city because my love story with Abruzzo has started here. In 2006, I decided to buy an apartment in Italy and stumbled upon this region. My friend and I decided to spend our vacation in Abruzzo in order to feel the taste of the region. The experiment proved to be a rather successful one since I’ve bought an apartment in Montesilvano (Abruzzo) and now spend there six months of a year. We naturally fell in love with beautiful Abruzzo. We were fond of the crystal clear Adriatic sea, endless golden sand beaches, mild Mediterranean climate and very fresh and tasty food. Moreover, we found out that the Abruzzese are very gentle and kindhearted people.
As many Adriatic cities, Giulianova consists of two parts. Giulianova Alta or Paese is located on a small hill (68 meters above sea level), and the modern city – Giulianova Lido or Spiaggia stretch along the sea. Giulianova was founded in 1470 by Duke Giulio Antonio Acquaviva and originally was named Giulia in his honor. Later on, a word Nova (new) was added to the name of the city. A new fortified town was built near the castle of Castrum Sancti Flaviani, which was destroyed during the fierce battle between the Aragonians and Anjous in 1460. Heavy walls and watchtowers were built around the entire perimeter of the hill. The two towers «Il Bianco» and «Porta Napoli» have been perfectly preserved to our time.
The modern city of Giulianova Lido began flourishing after the construction of railroad at the turn of the 19th century. In the late 19–early 20th centuries, aristocratic and bourgeois families built elegant villas in the Liberty style. These beautiful mansions still give Giulianova a unique noble appearance.
We stayed in a very comfortable apartment in the Residence Gambrinus, just few steps away from the beach. My friend especially liked the fact that we had an umbrella and two sun beds in our disposal. It was a very happy and calm beach holiday. I wasn’t yet a blogger and we spent long lazy hours on the beach.
One day, when my friend enjoyed his favorite Italian siesta, I made a walk to Giulianova Alta. I wanted to visit the Santuario di Maria Santissima dello Splendore (Sanctuary of the Blessed Maria in Glory). I went on foot to the top of the hill and found myself in a medieval town. It was the time of siesta, the streets were almost empty and only few old men were napping on benches in front of their houses. They looked rather surprised when they saw a crazy person like me who was very busy shooting photos. I think that they thought I was a midday dream, a sort of Fata Morgana.
After a rather long walk, I found the Sanctuary which looked like a cool oasis in the hot afternoon. When entering the Sanctuary, I instantly felt the profound conciliation and peace. The temple is situated in an old olive grove. In a marble portico is placed the statue of Madonna surrounded by flowing springs of water. This magnificent church was built on a spot where in 1557 a poor peasant Bertolino observed a radiant vision of the Madonna. At first, there was built a small chapel, and later, on there was founded a Celestine monastery. The present church was erected in 1847.
When I started descending the hill, I discovered that the stairway was designed as a symbolical Via Crucis. On each landing platform of the stairway is situated a bronze sculpture group, representing the sequence of the Via Crucis. Slowly descending the hill, I experienced a stupendous impression as if I was participating in the Biblical history. To say the truth, the impression was a little bit bizarre, since I observed the scenes in reverse order. It looked like reading a book from the end to the beginning.
This August, I accompanied my Irish and Russian friends to the Sanctuary. It took us half an hour to get from Montesilvano to Giulianova by train. At the railway station I asked a lady how to get to the beginning of the Via Crucis. It seemed that we accurately followed her instructions but we again took the wrong way and found ourselves in the historic center.
We visited a very beautiful Cathedral dedicated to San Flaviano, the holy Patriarch of Constantinople. The remains of the Saint miraculously reached the shore near Giulianova in the middle of the 5th century. The Cathedral was built in the 16th century in the Tuscan-Umbrian style. It has an octagonal shape and is covered with a semicircular dome. This architectural style is very rare in Abruzzo and resembles the Cathedral of Florence in miniature. Inside the cathedral, there was cool and solemn tranquility. We enjoyed a very simple and harmonious interior. The crypt of the cathedral hosts the relics of Saint Flavian, but it was closed.
Unlike the cathedral, there were quite a few people in the Sanctuary. It was time of the evening Mass and the congregation began gathering in the beautiful church. Besides, several coaches brought pilgrims and tourists to the Sanctuary. We dropped in the church for just a moment. The square near the church is very beautifully arranged. Two bronze statues of Jesus Christ and a winged angel on high pedestals dominate the space. An elegant side lodge is decorated with marvellous mosaic pictures representing scenes from the life of Christ.
We spend very pleasant time in the olive garden. The splendid portico hosts a statue of the Madonna and the Child. Several springs with cold and very tasty water flow out from the wall. Mural pictures are dedicated to miraculous healing of crippled and ill people. From the belvedere, we admired the panorama of Giulianova Lido and the Adriatic Sea. After feasting our eyes, we started our way down the Via Crucis. Though I made this way for the second time and again in the wrong order, I enjoyed expressive figures of Jesus Christ and other evangelic personages. The stations of the Via Crucis are framed by green setting of olives, stone-pines, aloe, cactuses, blooming oleanders and ripening pomegranates. I imagine that such species of plants could grow along the road to Calvary more than two thousand years ago.
After visiting the Sanctuary, my friend and I spent a few hours in Giulianova Lido. We recollected our first happy holiday in the city. We were greatly surprised by visible changes which have occurred over the past five years. The town has become more dynamic and modern. In the early evening the sea-front was crowded by holiday-makers and cyclists.