■ 23 September 2011 by James Martin
Just outside Sassoferrato is the Abbey of Santa Croce, dated to around the second half of the 11th century, and probably the work of craftsmen from Lombardy. The bell tower you see in the picture is later, and was possibly added to protect the church; it appears as if a “shell” has been built around it.
Many of the columns in the Abbey church come from the nearby Roman site of Sentinum, which you can easily visit on the same day (see below for a visitor guide and an article on the delights of “hidden Italy” in Sassoferrato).
In the middle ages there was a pilgrim’s hospice nearby, and the church displays a terracotta statue of the Pilgrim St. Rocco with the characteristic scallop shell attached to his coat. St. Rocco is a protector against the plague and all contagious diseases.
There are signs that the Knights Templar protected the church, and carvings attest to their presence.
There’s lots of evidence that the spot the abbey sits upon has been sacred for a long while; the church was built over a Temple dedicated to Mithros.
The portal, which you see to the right, is hidden, the stone frames carved with floral, animal and geometric motifs—quite interesting animals, as you’re likely to find on nearly every Romanesque Church!
Below are some more pictures of the column capitals and a detail of the door frame. The first picture, I’ve been informed, is a carving depicting a knighting ceremony.
While we visited, we found out that another part of the abbey was planned to be built into a spa.
Sassoferrato Visitor Information
Where from here? The Frasassi Caves are nearby.
Check out Hotels in or near Sassaferrato
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