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Lucoli is a pleasant valley, situated at a height that varies between 800 and 1400m. above sea level. It stretches for approximately 11,000 hectares and it is the vastest municipality of the Amiternina Mountain Community situated in the province of L’Aquila.
To the East it borders with Rocca di Mezzo, Rocca di Cambio and Bagno, to the West with Sassa, to the North with L'Aquila and to the South with Tornimparte. The argillic-calcareous soil is not very suitable for intensive crop growing, yet it is ideal for the cultivation of trees, orchards, oak forests etc. The flora consists of woodlands with plants typically found in the Apennine areas. The very name of this area derives from the dense local woodlands (Luculus = woods).
The municipality of Lucoli currently has about 1,000 inhabitants and it consists of fifteen hamlets, scattered on the sides of the valley and on the left and right of the torrent Rio that entirely cuts across the valley. The hamlets situated on the right of the torrent are: Piaggia, Casavecchia, Colle, Spogna, Spognetta, Vado Lucoli, Lucoli Alto and Collimento. The others, situated on the left are: St. Andrea, St. Menna, Francolisco, St. Croce, Prata, Peschíolo and Casamaina.
Lucoli is a tourist resort that is well-appreciated in summer for the tranquillity of these areas and for the air that is still uncontaminated, while in winter, for the Campo Felice skiing complex, which is surely one of the most beautiful and well-equipped in Central Italy.
Tourism is becoming increasingly important and proof of this is the establishment of several residences that by now can be considered as new towns, such as Prato Lonaro and Le Terrazze. The Municipality of Lucoli, apart from the healthiness of its climate and its landscape value, it also boasts an ancient, glorious history which is deeply rooted in the era of the ancient Sabine population.
The earliest evidence that tells us of stable settlements consists in the presence of some remains of roads which are characteristic of the Sabine era and which are still clearly visible, among the Lucoli mountains. The first concrete documents that mention Lucoli as a geographical name can be found in the Middle Ages, in the Chronicon Farfense (The Chronicles of Farfa 1062-1099) and in a seal of Alexander III dating back to 1178. It is in this period that the County of Collimento was established under the domination of Odorisio, the son of Berardo de' Marsi. Count Odorisio made his country richer by making donations to the Abbey of St. John the Baptist, an artistic gem that can still be admired today in all of its splendour and it is the pride and glory of Lucoli. This county represented, following the fall and destruction of Amiterno, Aveia and Forcona, one of the safest and most valid defence complexes throughout the entire surrounding area and moreover, it was considered the most important castle among those that were subject to the Papal State.
Throughout the following centuries, the county was transformed into a municipality and it took part in the foundation of the city of L’Aquila, by operating and building in the San Giovanni (St. John) area of Lucoli (the present day St. Marciano) which stretched out from the Rivera houses in Via San Marciano. Following territorial and social disputes, the inhabitants of L’Aquila, who were initially heterogeneous, yet which immediately became arrogant, the original castles were made autonomous and Lucoli was assigned to the jurisdiction of the Oranges and their captains.
At the end of 1300, it distinguished itself for the support it gave to the inhabitants of its own city district, which had brought about an uprising against the abuse imposed by Queen Joanna I; later on it suffered the impositions and the pressure caused by Charles of Anjou and in time, all the habitual oppression brought about by the various authorities in L’Aquila, until, at the beginning of the 16th century, these lost their jurisdiction over the castles. Lucoli, together with its county was sold to the Spanish captain Pietro Ossorio.
From 1529, the year in which Pietro Ossorio bought Lucoli castle, to 1806, the year in which Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples, abolished feudalism and everything that was associated with it, Lucoli was sold several times, passing from hand to hand.
The Municipality of Lucoli, with its several villas maintains remarkable structures of artistic and monumental interest including the Benedictine St. John’s Abbey, with its characteristic cloister dating back to 1077 and the frescoes inside the church; the church of St. Menna with frescoes by Bedeschini and Gatti; St. Michael’s church in Lucoli Alto (situated on the hill of the same name, destroyed by the earthquake in 1915 and then rebuilt) with frescoes by the Giotto school; the church of Blessed Christine of Lucoli and various other sacred buildings located in different hamlets. The processional cross by Paolo di Meo Quatraro is of great historic and artistic important and it dates back to 1377. There are also many interesting noble palaces as well as churches with medieval structures, evidence of a remarkable wealth and refined taste.
The Abbey of St. John the Baptist
Its origins date back to 1077. Its interior was transformed into the Baroque style following the earthquake in 1703. It underwent restoration in 1835 and the most recent work carried out in 1994 has brought the Basilica back to its original style. The abbey has, within its environmental context, a longitudinal north-south axis of the church, with a side wall resting on the contour line of the steep hill slope. The abbey façade, composed of a three-arch porticoes, the side ones of which are pointed and they terminate, at the far east, with a swerving pilaster, which is lacking in the one in the West. On one side of the façade, opens the access door to the cloister and the convent that is beneath the entrance level so much so that one has to go down a stairway, to gain access to the lower portico, and there is a steps to go up, in order to enter the monks’ cells situated on the upper floor which also has a portico. From the convent cloister it is possible to access the church by means of a raised landing with a portal bearing a frescoed lunette. The entire cloister structure is composed of various buildings underlined by the contour of the roofs that highlight the elements added to the original ones in several different periods.
On entering the church, the present aspect of which is the result of recent restoration, one can see the clear design of the church layout that consists of three naves divided by octagonal pillars on which pointed arches rest. The columns on the right seem more recent than the ones on the left, perhaps due to a collapse and this can be easily seen due to the degree of craftsmanship which is clearly inferior to the exceptional quality of the columns on the left. The roof is double-pitched over the central nave and mono-pitched over the side aisles. Both are made of wood with roof trusses that make the hall appear lighter and more spacious restoring its splendour and grandeur. The central nave terminates with the high altar, preceded by a finely-crafted balustrade in two-tone marble with lines and patterns which are clearly Baroque-style. The frescoes are of remarkable importance (discovered during the most recent restoration works) some of which have been attributed to De Litio. The Organ by Farina (1500) is of particular interest as it is positioned on the entrance wall of the central nave; just as commendable are also the wooden coffered ceilings as well as the frescoes that can be found in the Sacristy. The bell tower linked to the church by means of a passage through the rectory is worthy of note.
The St. John the Baptist’s complex, for its architectural peculiarities, its artistic value and the interesting restoration work it has undergone make it one of the most important monuments nationwide.
The Church of Blessed Christine
In ancient times, this church was so small that it was called “Cona” (small chapel or shrine). Here a painting of the Madonna with Baby Jesus in her arms was worshipped. In front of that sacred image the young Mattia Ciccarelli bowed down; later on she was to become Blessed Christine. In 1590, in that same place, the piety of the believers brought about the construction of a sumptuous church to host the crowds of pilgrims who came from many different places to venerate that place which had been sanctified by the presence of Blessed Christine. The church dedicated to the Augustinian Saint (1480-1519) is an interesting example of religious architecture enriched with decorations on the façade, in the bell tower and inside its only nave. The building was constructed with one single nave with a lowered barrel vault that has been completely frescoed. The nave is divided by an 18th century balustrade which makes way for a deep presbyterial area in which there are two side altars as well as the high altar. This part of the church is characterised by an 18th century detailed decorative design which enriches and formally links itself to the presbyterial area the style in which it is made is rather monotonous: an altar with decorated dado, jambs with overlapping gables and scrolls as well as a presbyterial balustrade. Although the façade is embellished by excessive decorativism as regards the windows, the portal and the oculi, all in all it is a beautiful example of late Baroque work. In the lower part, it is attached to the bell tower with three overlapping sections where the central one is separated by a moulded string-course decorated with emblems and twisted rope style band. The bell chamber, rounded at the corners, bears the repetition of the decorativism that can be seen also on the facade.
The Church of St. Menna
The present building derives from the complex restructuring and modifications. In ancient times this church was so small as to be called Cona. There was venerated a picture of the Madonna with the infant Jesus in her arms. St. Menna already existed in 1215, the year of the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent III. Currently the building has an unusual plan with two naves divided by three bays and which terminate with a wall that is not perpendicular to the perimeter walls. The 13th century church can almost certainly be identified with the present day right aisle, while the left aisle represents the doubling of the architectural module. The widening of the church probably took place in the first half of the 15th century, before the late 15th century frescoes. As for the division of the naves, a restored circular-section column placed in the centre and two pillars obtained from the ancient perimeter wall from which pointed arches branch off. On the left wall there is St. James’ chapel dating back to the middle of the 16th century while the church walls are covered with 16th century frescoes (1537-1599) and among these, the Crucifixion of Saturnino Gatti on the left wall stands out from the rest.
St. Sebastian’s Church
The church is situated in the highest part of the historic city centre of Collimento and it already existed in 1215 in the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent III. The present building has only one nave with the adjacent chapel dedicated to St. Joseph proposes itself as an abnormal building without a façade. The main entrance, with a stairway, opens onto the right wall of the nave, while a second entrance is in St. Joseph’s chapel. The only nave is covered by a flat ceiling; it has three 18th century altars with niches that contain wooden statues. St. Joseph’s chapel, which opens at the end of the nave, to the left of the high altar, is more interesting from an architectural point of view. Two small domes with elliptical transverse cross-sections, which rest on narrow pilasters that form support elements and cover the chapel. Also the decorative partition that includes the dome system is worthy of note and it competes for the original architectural imposition of the entire chapel. The wooden statue of St. Sebastian is of great artistic value and it has recently been restored.
St George’s Church
This church is part of the heritage belonging to St. John the Baptist’s monastery in Collimento listed in the papal bull of Pope Innocent III in 1215. Its name is mentioned also in the book Decime Vescovili (The Bishop’s Tithes) published in 1403, the year in which people refused to pay tax to the Bishop of L’Aquila. This shows that at that time, also this church was dependent on the Diocese and non on the Abbey. In 1793 a permanent Bursar was needed to fulfil the spiritual needs of the two hamlets. The last one was Don Domenico Sartori of Cagnano who died in 1885.
St. Michael’s Church
St. Michael’s church was built on the top of a cone-shaped hill. It dates back to the heart of the Middle Ages and it was mentioned in the Papal Bull of Alexander III, in 1215. It was destroyed by the earthquake of 13th January 1915 and it was entirely restructured thanks to the active interest of the inhabitants of Lucoli Alto and the abbot Ambrogio Ammanniti. In the past, the Holy Mass was celebrated here every Sunday, but the Holy Sacrament was not kept here as the church was far from the town. The festival of St. Michael Archangel is celebrated here on 29th September as well as the torchlight procession held on 31st December. The statue of St. Michael Archangel is present on the altar. Inside there is a fresco dating back to the late 1300s, it is the only part of the original church decoration that has remained intact to date. It portrays the “Enthroned Madonna with Child” with St. John the Baptist on one side.
The silver processional cross, dating back to 1377, is the work of the goldsmith Paolo di Meo Quatraro from Sulmona; the oval plate affixed to the same reads as follows:
HOC OPUS FECIT FIERI FR. ANDREAS
ABBAS S. JOHANNIS DE COLUMENTO
PER MANUS MAGISTRI PAULI MEI
DE QUATRARIIS DE SULMONA
The cross, commissioned by the Abbot Andrea Agnifili, on one side bears the image of the Crucifix and on the other the symbols of the four Evangelists. It is made of embossed gilded silver: it measures. 0.72 x 0.59m. Its arms have the background decorated with plant frieze motifs and at the ends there are trefoils. On the “head” side there are: the Crucifix, in the trefoils there is a pelican, the Virgin Mary, St. John and the Calvary scene with a skull; below the pelican there is the tree of earthly Paradise with the snake. Instead, on the “tail” side, in the centre there is Saviour sat on a throne who is carrying out the act of blessing, with a globe in his left hand, while in the trefoils there are the symbols of the four Evangelists. Moreover, the arms have three medallions that were previously enamelled. Gilt copper spheres protrude from the edges. The gilt copper knot is embossed with leaf motifs and it is adorned with six enamelled medallions with figures of Saints. Underneath the figure of the Saviour, there is a plaque written with Gothic font bearing the abovementioned wording. The cross is currently kept by His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of L’Aquila.
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Proloco di Casamaina
Via San Luca 12 - 67045 Casamaina di Lucoli (Aq)
Mobile: +39.338033549 - Marco Sterpone
Fraz. S. Menna
Vincenzo Cecchini - mobile [+39] 347 3604812
Antonio Iannini - mobile [+39] 349 4251303