|Casale Le Crete|
Santa Maria in Valle Porclaneta
Not too far from the beginning of the path that leads to Mount Velino is situated the church of S.Maria in Valle Porclaneta, 1.006 ms on the sea level. If you look at the façade of the church you can notice that the roof repeats perfectly the outline of the Mountain Velino and this is a sign that the ancient architects were also careful of the surrounding territory.
The church is of the XI century, even if the foundation of the abbey probably goes up to the end of the VII or VIII century because of the type of writing that we find on some columns, typical of the Benevento domination in Marsica,. But the first certain document is of 1048: in which Berardo Count of Marsi, ". gives the castle of Rosciolo with its property to the monastery of Saint Maria."
It is a church with three aisles, with an only central semicircular apse, and with a covered entry (nartece or pronao). The portal set on the square in front of the entry tells us of how the church was initially closed by a cloister.
The inside offers us examples of the following styles: Pre-romanesque, Romanesque and Byzantine. You can notice the columns, with ancient sculptures, some rough but fascinating ones, with strange animals, primordial symbols (the spiral), geometric and floral figures and a Nativity.
On the left a column is set, the ambone, which is a pulpit from which the priest preached and read the liturgies; it is of 1150 and it was made by Roberto and Nicodemo, and it has an epigraph. Notice the beauty and originality of the sculptures, of great artistic value and painting Giona and the whale, Salomè in a dance and Sansone that strikes a lion with a stick.
But the work that strikes most a modern visitor is the Iconostasi , an area that divides the two halves of the church ,the one reserved to the religious from the other open to the believers and it is a structure on which the icons are kept. This work, unique in its kind, is composed of a base (plutei) engraven with oriental motives (the dragon, the snout), on which four mullions of great elegance and invoice support a really unique wooden part, even if partially damaged. It seems to have been made around one century later, in 1240, and the used wood should be oak, even if a definitive analysis and study have not been done yet. The whole work inspires a big sense of delicacy, and the eye moves from the friezes to the leaves and flowers, from the bows, to the animals, to the roses , stars and angels.
But the visit is not ended: on the altar the ciborium or tabernacle towers with a canopy in Byzantine style, recalling amazingly the Iranian art. Here the technique used in sculpture can be defined "embroidery", technique because it creates effects of depth and background. It is rich of Arabic figures and it is contemporary to the ambone, and even the authors are the same, Roberto and Nicodemo.
The frescos, very interesting as well, are of the XIV and XV centuries; they decorate the columns and represent the saints. Of great value is the Madonna with Child near door.
It is interesting to read how a brave English traveller of the beginning of the XX century, Anne MacDonell, describes in one of her books published in 1908 ("In the Abruzzi") the territory and the church, where she arrives after a long walk, but that she irremediably finds closed:
"It is very easy to miss S.Maria della Valle, for it lies far away from the high-road to anywhere, and cannot be "taken with" other monuments of importance. The air is inspiriting, and the view of the beautiful Valley of Porclaneta draws us on. We leave many many stares behind us at our refusal of a carrozzella to rosciolo; but it is good to foot it upwards through this golden country, exuberant and suave, the bare hills on each hand softened by the shady trees that walk along and keep us company. The road to the temple of the Guardian of the Vale lies under, not through, the village, and thus we never saw the fine church there. Rosciolo is the place from which climbers start by night for the ascent of Monte Velino. Monte Velino is a favourite and a kindly mountain. The German climber we met at Sulmona, who had "done" all the Alps, scoffed at the Apennines, pronounced the Gran Sasso and Majella puny and dull, had still a good word for Monte Velino. Easy, of course, a thing to be sauntered up; but he owned the beauty and charm of the surroundings. To all the folks round about Velino is a friend. They gather medicinal herbs on its slopes, and look up to it for guidance. If the first snows of the year cover only the three peaks,( Velino, Cafornia and Service) , a stern winter is to be looked for; a mild one if the snow comes half way down. And so the old rhyme-
"Quando il Velino si mette il capello,
Vendi le capre ed acquista il mantello,
Quando il Velino le brache si mette,
Vendi il mantello e compra il caprette"
( When Velino puts on his hat, sell your goat and get you a clock, When Velino puts on his hosen, sell your clock and buy little goat)
From Rosciolo the road is rough, but not shadeless,
and just when we seem to be running against the back wall of the valley, we
found our Santa Maria. There it lies, close under the steep wooded hill, at
the end of the world, and very solitary. There are not more than two houses
near it, where once was a flourishing town, the Villa Maggiore, raised by
Charles of Anjou, presumably for the support it gave to Conradin. Its people
fled to Magliano. All that is left of the church looks little remarkable,
a barn like structure with a pretty aspe and a windo looking to the south.
The porch is open, and seems to be used as a casual stable. A most convenient
shelter in the storm, doubtless, it is "national monument". Above the door,
is a lunette, is a delightful fresco of Our Lady with an angel on each side,
of the early fourteenth century. A travelling Englishmen passing here thought
it wasted in this wilderness, and offered to buy it. He bid quite high, and
was surprised he did not have his way. One might well be alarmed for its safety;
yet the herds who stable the cows and mules underneath had respected it. The
door of the church is locked; the houses near are empty; but far down in the
fields we see some peasants working and we make for them. Yes , there used
to be a key here, but not now. There is a volunteer, however to fetch the
one at Rosciolo. Little Antonietta, they feel dispensed, from further labor
that day. We have their company for the rest of the time. She lies very lonely,
St. Mary of the Valley. Not very often is her lamp lit now, since the key
is gone from the cottage hard by. The peasants speak to her in the porch,
looking up at her image in the lunette above; and the porch is very hospitable
to the shepherds, the cowherds, and the swinceherds of the hills, who have
a favourite rendezvous just above the well of clear coldwater from the rocks;
hospitable for their beasts, too, and doubtless to the prowling wolves the
at come down in the time of the snows from the steep beech-covered hill above."
To visit the church today, it is necessary to book, calling at this number in Rosciolo, (tel. 366 5902125); the warden will come to open the church in change of a small offer of money.