(July 2023) S. Maria di Paganica is the historical church of L'Aquila which was worst affected by the 2009 earthquake (you may wish to see the small fountain near it in another page)
The churches, which are likewise spacious, bear exteriorly the same character, especially in their portals; which, having generally withstood the effects of the earthquake, offer in the clustered pillars supporting the arch, and the florid scroll-work which enriches its curve, very exquisite specimens of execution. (..)
The places of worship, including monasteries, are seventy in number; which, as may be imagined are far beyond what may be required by so limited, however devout, a population.
Keppel Richard Craven - Excursions in the Abruzzi and northern provinces of Naples - 1838
(left) Main portal of S. Maria di Paganica from "
Edward Lear - Illustrated Excursions in Italy - 1846"; (right) the portal being restored in July 2023; the image used as background for this page depicts a relief portraying St. Paul in its lintel
Aquila is full of interest; and its antiquities and churches will repay visit of a few days. (..) Many of the churches and public buildings exhibit fragments of Gothic architecture, highly illustrative of the German origin of the city. Santa Maria Paganica has a fine doorway, with rich carving, and a ruined rose window.
John Murray - A Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy - 1853
What Craven noticed about the portals of the churches occurred also in 2009. While the walls of the churches, especially those of the presbytery, entirely collapsed, the portals discharged laterally the impact of the earthquake, and overall suffered only minor damages.
The rebuilding of L'Aquila after its destruction by Manfred in 1259 gives the date of the bulk of its churches, all in a Romanesque style with a decoration similar to that of contemporary Gothic churches. The portal is dated 1308 and it has a very complex structure with human beings and animals depicted inside foliage and geometric bands.
S. Maria di Paganica: southern side portal; (inset) a lion depicted in an unusual way in the most external band, a later addition
The third and fourth turnings to the left from the Corso beyond the Via Romana lead to Santa Maria di Paganica, with a Romanesque facade and side-portal.
Karl Baedeker - Italy; handbook for travellers - 1900
This side portal shows major differences from the main one in terms of decoration and execution with flatter reliefs.
October 10th-20th, 1844. These days I passed in Aquila, hoping for finer weather, now and then tantalized by a day of sunshine, though the morrow was surely wet, so that after several disappointments, I finally decided to return to Rome, leaving the Teramana unexplored, my churches undrawn, and my good Marsican friends unrevisited. Meanwhile, my luckless stay in Aquila was enlivened by the kindness of the Ricevitore Generale, Marchese Spaventa, who lionized me all over the city, scarcely leaving a scrap of Gothic architecture unshewn; the church of San Domenico, the beautiful facciata of San Silvestro, the castle built by Charles V., 1535, and commanding all the city of Aquila, an old tomb of the Camponeschi, and doors and windows ad infinitum. Under porticoes or an umbrella I persevered greatly in sketching, and spite of the rain carried off much of what I wished to possess.
Santa Giusta has the richest window in Aquila; the bands rest on figures in different attitudes, and of very grotesque forms. Murray
S. Giusta: (left) detail of the portal with capitals which recall to mind some Byzantine patterns; (right) fountain attached to the fašade; it was the public fountain of the quarter
The Via di Bazzano diverging to the right from the Corso brings us to the church of Santa Giusta, with a Romanesque facade.
We return to the Corso, which skirts the E. side of the Piazza del Duomo. On the W. side of the square rises the Cattedrale (San Massimo), founded in the 13th cent, and largely rebuilt in recent times, after frequent injuries from earthquakes. Baedeker
Some of the most interesting fountains of L'Aquila are shown in another page.
The best views may be obtained from the Madonna del Roio. Lear
Many of the fašades and of the bell towers of churches have been reconstructed or repaired after the 2009 earthquake. In most cases however their interior is still being fixed.
S. Domenico: detail of the portal
The portal was built at the same time as that of S. Maria di Paganica, but it retains only part of its initial decoration. The two angels hold a shield bearing an eight-point star, an attribute associated with St. Dominic; he is often represented with an eight-pointed star over his head which alludes to the light that appeared over his head when he was baptized. He is called Lumen Ecclesiae, Light of the Church.
Farther on are the churches of San Marciano and Santa Maria di Roio, both with Romanesque facades. Baedeker
The depiction of the symbols of the Four Evangelists is very common, most usually at the four corners of a frame surrounding a rose window, e.g. in the Cathedral of Spoleto or at the sides of Jesus, e.g. at Ravenna, so the way they were depicted on one side of the portal of S. Marciano is almost unique.
The inscription Haec porta Domini iusti intrabunt in eam (This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it - Psalms 117:20) is in sharp contrast with the decoration of the door which is based on theatrical masks and reflects the fashion of the time. See a page on the laughing masks of many Roman monuments.
S. Maria del Suffragio: (left) fašade; (right-above) relief portraying the Virgin Mary and souls in Purgatory; (right-below) inscription stating that the souls of the dead need prayers and alms, rather than tears
Suffrages are the masses, prayers, or acts of piety offered for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. Confraternita del Suffragio was a brotherhood aimed at shortening the sufferings of the souls in Purgatory. They had a small oratory which was entirely destroyed by the 1703 earthquake. Its members, many of whom belonged to the local nobility, decided to build a brand new church near the Cathedral. Works started in 1713, based on a project by Carlo Buratti, an architect who had started his career with Carlo Fontana, the leading architect of the time in Rome. The concave fašade calls to mind that of S. Marcello al Corso, Fontana's masterpiece. The church was completed only a century later. Its decoration is based on symbols of deaths (see a page on this topic and a church of Rome built by a similar brotherhood and read a 1781 comment by John Moore on this practice).
Among the numerous churches existing at Aquila, the interior of which is stamped with a character of uniformity, some good paintings are to be found. Craven
The museum was founded in 1951 inside the Spanish Castle to house archaeological findings and works of art from L'Aquila and its environs. Because of the 2009 earthquake the museum was closed and in 2015 a selection of its exhibits were moved to a new location near Porta Rivera, in a former municipal slaughterhouse which had not been greatly damaged by the earthquake.
Renaissance painted sculptures: (left) Crib (terracotta) by Saturnino Gatti (1512); (right) St. Sebastian (wood) by Silvestro dell'Aquila (1478)
Our Lady of Loreto between St. John the Baptist and St. Maximus of Aveia, one of the patron saints of L'Aquila, by Pompeo Cesura (1571) from S. Marciano
Paintings traditionally attributed to Francesco da Montereale (early XVIth century): (left) St. Eusanius, a local saint, from S. Francesco (a lost church); (right) The Nativity of the Virgin Mary from S. Domenico
Introductory page to this section
Atri - the Town
Atri - the Cathedral
Borgocollefegato and the Cicolano
Chieti - Roman memories
Leonessa - The Town
Leonessa - The Churches
Luco and Trasacco
S. Benedetto dei Marsi and Pescina
XVIIIth century Sulmona
Sulmona: Easter Day Ceremony (La Madonna che scappa - The Fleeing Madonna)