Itinerary: Isola del Gran Sasso, Ronzano, Canzano, Guardia Vomano, Morro D’Oro
The Magnificent Abbeys of the Vomano Valley
The Valley of Vomano, which follows the course of Vomano river, is a flatland area with green hills dotted with small villages. Here, you will find the Benedictine Abbeys, the true jewels of region Abruzzo. Born in the East, the Monasticism spread in Western Europe thanks to Benedict of Nursia's work. During the Middle Ages, the Benedictine Abbeys became not only a religious and artistic center but also a social and economic meeting point.
Since the local lords have supported the Monasticism for its social importance, it continued to grow even during the Lombard and Norman rules. The monastery has soon become the "place of the soul", where the search for spirituality went along with a continuous effort to improve living conditions.
This tour will follow river Vomano from Isola del Gran Sasso up to Morro d'Oro. Not far from Isola del Gran Sasso, about 1 kilometer from the junction to Castelli, there is an ancient building on the left: it is the Abbey of San Giovanni ad Insulam, one of the most important Romanesque-style religious buildings in Abruzzo. It was built around 1150 when Monte Cassino's Benedictine Order colonized the whole area of Abruzzo.
The simple and austere hewn-stone façade is enriched with a beautiful rose window, two mullioned windows on either side of the portal, and a hanging decoration that runs along the entire perimeter. It is one of the oldest examples of this type of Abbey, a style that will spread further in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Six arches on each side divide the three naves of the church, with only one semicircular apse at the end of the central nave. The apse was embellished in 1421 with a fresco, which has been attributed to an Andrea Deliti's pupil.
When your visit to the abbey is over, drive to Castel Castagna. Here, you will visit the large square with the Abbey of Santa Maria di Hum, one of the historic and cultural beauties within the province of Teramo. The well-preserved Abbey, which overlooks the countryside surrounding Castel Castagna, was built in 1171 and is a wonderful combination of art and nature. Take a deeper look at the façade, the apse and the bell cells that hide Corno Grande.
From Ronzano, continue along the same road. On Colle San Salvatore there is the Abbey of San Salvatore di Canzano. Its main features are a gabled roof, a square-base bell tower, and a beautiful façade with a simple portal and a pointed arch. There used to be a stone cross embedded in the wall between the two openings. Beautiful frescoes are still visible on the interior walls and on the underside of the arches, some of them painted between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and others between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, there is a beautiful Madonna and Child in a left-wall recess.
From Canzano, take the direction to Roseto degli Abruzzi. After Casabianca, it is time to stop and visit Abbey of San Clemente al Vomano, recently reopened after a long restoration. The Abbey was founded in 874 at the request of Ermengarde, Emperor Louis II's daughter. Abandoned by the monks, the monastery collapsed in the sixteenth century, but the church luckily did not. The interior has three naves ending in semicircular apses supported by brick or stone pillars. The altar is beautifully decorated, and the right aisle houses a polychrome wooden bust of Pope St. Clement. On the left, there are interesting remains of frescoes. Outside, the portal and the archway are artistically carved in stone.
Along the same road and near Morro D'Or there is the ancient Abbey of Santa Maria di Propezzano. The religious building stands on the site where, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared as far back as 715. The Gothic and the Romanesque styles mingle in the architecture of the building, whose façade is made up of three parts with different heights. The right one is merged with the convent while the left one is characterized by the magnificent Holy Door, which is opened on the 10th of May only (the Day of Ascension). The central body has a portico with three arches, frescoes and a simple rose window above. The church has a square-base bell tower, and its interior has three naves separated by arches and with remains of frescoes.
Departure: Isola del Gran Sasso
Arrival: Morro D'Oro
Length: Km 62
Some pics of this tour:
Abbey of St. Mary of Propezzano (pic n°1); Santa Maria of Rozzano (pic n°2); Insulam of St. John (pic n°3); Insulam of St. John frescoes (pic n°4); S. Clemente Abbey (pic n°5); the altar of S. Clemente (pic n°6);