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View of Celano from the road from Avezzano in "Edward Lear - Illustrated Excursions in Italy - 1846"
July 29, 1843. A lovely morning followed the tempestuous night; and as we trotted at sunrise along the road from Avezzano to Celano, bound to no particular place, but at the mercy of the weather and our own caprices, everything seemed fresh and delightful. Groups of peasants journeying to the
market of Avezzano enlivened the way, each giving us a passing greeting. Below us on the right were fields of uninterrupted cultivation - vines and Indian corn, stretching to the Lake: to the left the yellow plain of Alba, with its town always in sight, until shut out by the hill of Paterno, on whose sides,
the sunniest and most fertile in all the Marsica, the olive, an unusual guest in these parts, grows abundantly.(..) We approached Celano by stony lanes bordered with poplars, and more like watercourses than roads; for the carriage-road ceases below Paterno. Here all the scenery grows more wild and Swiss in character: vistas between mountains displayed crags with towns perched thereon; and clouds, covering many of the higher points, lent a mystery to what was beyond.
Edward Lear - Illustrated Excursions in Italy - 1846
Celano seen from the road from Avezzano (see the town from Luco on the opposite side of the lake)
Celano is pleasantly situated on a hill (..) This elevated position secures to it the advantages of a clearer and more salubrious air; its population is estimated at three thousand souls. (..) The power of its feudal possessors showed itself in an hostile shape against the rule of the Swabian dynasty, whose resentment was testified by Frederick II. in the most formidable manner in the year 1223. This prince not only sacked and destroyed the town, but sent forth its inhabitants to colonise distant districts in Calabria, Sicily, and even as far as Malta. He established a new population in its ruined walls, and afterwards endeavoured to restore it to the consequence of a town under the name of Cesarea; this, however, in the lapse of years, yielded to the resumption of its original appellation, which in modern times has been attached to the lake.
Keppel Richard Craven - Excursions in the Abruzzi and northern provinces of Naples - 1838
Celano, once an important fortress-town, and the head of the Marsica during the troublous times of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is now remarkable only for the extreme picturesqueness of its situation: it stands below a wondrous bare precipice on a hill overlooking the whole of the Lake of Fucino, though at a considerable distance from its edge; the space between the town and the water being filled with meadows and vineyards, and watered by the clearest streams. Lear
Piazza di Celano, sketch by E. Lear
July 29, 1843. We gained the summit of the hill on which the town is placed, and held a council as to our further proceedings as soon as we reached the marketplace or Piazza of Celano, where, itself a picture, we lingered to admire the view. (..) August 30, 1843 (second stay at Celano). The evening, a few of the townspeople usually came in, and they delighted in looking over my sketches and recognizing each other's houses, &c. Lear
(left) Porta Nuova; (right) street inside the walls
August 30, 1843. We had seated ourselves to supper the first evening of my arrival, when I felt myself suddenly shaken forward in my chair, till my nose nearly touched
the table: some novel domestic arrangement of a servant behind, shaking every-body into his seat - said I to myself: - but the moment after all the family rose, and various people, screaming "Terramoto!" ran wildly into the room. Celano, and indeed the whole province of Abruzzo Ulteriore Secondo is very subject to earthquakes, and during my stay in the neighbourhood there were four shocks, which I soon learned to recognise as such. Lear
On January 13, 1915 a major earthquake struck the region around Lake Fucino. Avezzano was almost entirely destroyed, but also Celano and other towns suffered major damage. Most of the picturesque buildings which attracted Lear's attention collapsed and were eventually pulled down, but still some corners of the town retain their old aspect.
July 29, 1843. We decided on going on to Solmona; and, having voted the rock above Celano a most suspicious and comfortless neighbour we went down on the opposite side of the hill, and, regaining the level of the Lake, bent our way towards the Forca Caruso. How infinitely grand was the old turreted castle of the ancient Counts (Castello Piccolomini), sheltering its clustered dependencies of convents, churches, and palazzi! Lear
The prospect of Celano proved of some relief to our wearied attention, beautifully placed as it is about four miles from the shore, at the opening of a woody glen, on a height boldly detached from another picturesque insulated mountain, one of the roots of Velino. Craven
August 30, 1843. I passed four days at Celano, Don Francesco and Don Pamfilo, Donna Costanza and Donna Felicetta, being then the occupants of the Tabassi family house. These good people sought every opportunity to oblige and assist me; but left me to do just as I pleased with regard to my out-of-doors occupation. (..) August 31st. Drew above the town, and in the meadows below whence the stupendous rock behind it is seen to great advantage. Two peasants came out of their field to offer me some almonds. (..) At twelve,-having risen at four,-the good soup, fresh whitings, boiled capon, slices of cold ham and Bologna sausage, heaps of Macaroni, stewed veal, roast pigeon, pears, plums, and melons, were very acceptable; and such was the quality of their usual meals. Lear
(above) Valley leading to Ovindoli and L'Aquila seen from Castello Piccolomini; (below) Santa Iona
September, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 1843. Various excursions occupied my time when not employed in drawing the town. One afternoon I followed the wild and dreary road to Aquila as far as San Potito: nothing can be much more savage and barren than this part of the vicinity of Celano; and I was sorry I had not time to reach Ovindoli, a town on a precipitous rock in the distance, which appeared highly picturesque. I returned by Sant' Iona, a bleak-looking village, with no particular interest. Lear
Celano was considered as a fief of great importance, and successively granted, as such, to several powerful families. It belonged for a considerable space of time to one whose patronymic made way for the title; the heiress of which, Giovanna, or Covella, of Celano, is quoted by Neapolitan historians as a person mournfully celebrated for the vicissitudes of fortune. She had been originally married to a nephew of Pope Martin V. (of the house of Colonna), who wished, through this alliance, to secure to his kinsman the influence and wealth attached to her inheritance.
This union was speedily dissolved by her quitting her husband, without any apparent reason, and marrying her own nephew Leonello Acclocciamuro, without waiting for the dispensation of the Holy See. This marriage was productive of a son, Rugerotto, who, when arrived at the age of manhood, persecuted his mother with the most unnatural hostility.
He sided with the Angevine faction, opposed to the Aragonese family who protected the countess; and, succeeded, after a long siege, in making himself master of the town and castle of Celano, in which she had strenuously defended herself for several months. She was cast into a dungeon, and there immured for a series of years; while her son took possession of all her domains, the enjoyment of which was confirmed to him. In the course of time, however, a reverse of fortune restored her to liberty, through the interference of Pope Pius II. (Eneas Silvius); and, after her death, the county of Celano and all its dependencies were conferred on the Piccolomini family, closely related to that pontiff, and greatly favoured by the Aragonese dynasty, who likewise created its head, Antonio, duke of Amalfi. This race possessed it, until its extinction, when the property reverted to the crown. Craven
The history of Celano possesses a great deal of interest; and the life of one of its Countesses, Covella, would alone furnish romance enough for a volume. Lear
(left) Coat of arms of the Piccolomini d'Aragona on a round tower of the outer walls; (centre) a decorated window of the palace; (right) fragments of a fresco in the palace
The Piccolomini family, who obtained a grant of the estates after their confiscation under the Aragonese dynasty, added to this structure; and at subsequent periods it received garrisons from the different powers who by turns disputed the possession of these territories. The Piccolomini likewise enriched and enlarged this community. (..) A great portion of these fiefs were sold by the Piccolomini to the Peretti family, from whom they were transferred in later years to the Sforza Bovadilla. The present possession of the castle is now disputed by this last, and the family of Torres of Aquila. Craven
A long period of abandonment, its being used as a prison and the effects of the 1915 earthquake have left few traces of the decoration of the castle in its heydays.
August 31st. Don Pamfilo took me over the interior of the Castle, a noble building: its carved doorways and windows, cortile, chapel, all in a solid style of Baronial splendour, but neglected and decaying. The last owner of this beautiful place died a few years since intestate; and the property is now in a decaying state, while numerous heirs-at-law are contesting its possession. (..) September 4th. By sunrise I had left my friends, and was on my way from Celano to San Benedetto, a little village near the site of the ancient Marruvium. Lear
The reconstruction of the castle was completed in 1960 and since 1992 it houses: a) Museo di Arte Sacra della Marsica which displays paintings and sculptures from many churches of the region which were destroyed by the earthquake; b) the Torlonia Collection of antiquities which were found during the reclamation of Lake Fucino in the 1870s.
The church was part of a Benedictine monastery, a branch of that of S. Maria di Luco on the opposite shore of the lake. It was in a decaying state in the 1880s when it was decided that the railway line from Avezzano to Celano should pass across it. The portal was dismantled and it was initially placed on the side of another church before being moved to Castello Piccolomini. Its decoration is characterized by fine capitals and complex medieval reliefs.
SS. Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista: (left) fašade; (right) XVIth century elder wood doors with the coats of arms of the House of Aragon (above) and of the House of Piccolomini (below)
The construction of the church, the main one of Celano, began in the XIIIth century but it was completed only two centuries later by master masons from L'Aquila called in by Countess Covella. Its fašade has a gabled roof which is highly unusual in Abruzzo where the wall above the rose window is square (see S. Maria di Collemaggio at L'Aquila, the finest example of this type of fašades).
SS. Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista: (left) rose window; (right) detail of the portal
A ledge separates the Romanesque portal from the Gothic rose window which is decorated with cupids and plant motifs. The relief at its centre depicts Christ. Some details of the portal belong to the XVIth century.
SS. Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista: right nave XVth century frescoes; another detail is shown in the image used as background for this page (see similar frescoes in the Cathedral of Atri)
The interior of the church was redesigned and redecorated after a 1706 earthquake, but the 1915 earthquake made these additions fall and brought to light the painted vaults of the right nave. The frescoes portray the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and several saints and they are attributed to XVth century painters from Tuscany.
S. Francesco: portal with a XVth century fresco
The church was built in ca 1345 and it belonged to a lost Franciscan convent. The interior is modernized but the fašade retains a fine portal with pink and green marbles; the latter (cipollino) was most likely taken from buildings of Maruvium, a prosperous Roman town on the eastern shore of Lake Fucino.
S. Angelo: (left) fašade seen from Castello Piccolomini; (centre) statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the same posture as that at Castel Sant'Angelo, i.e. announcing the end of a pestilence; (right) detail of the portal showing a red stone guardian lion supporting a column, similar to those at Ancona and Verona
The church was founded in 1392 when the town and Italy were still recovering from the 1348 Black Death and it was completed at the time of Countess Covella. It belonged to a convent of the Celestine friars, the order founded by Pope Celestine V.
Museo di Arte Sacra della Marsica at Castello Piccolomini - from S. Angelo: late XVIth century works by a local painter showing the influence of Raphael in the portrayal of the heads of cherubs and of Piero della Francesca in that of the sleeping soldiers
The museum houses many exhibits from S. Pietro d'Albe (Alba Fucens), some fine frescoes from Palazzo Ducale of Tagliacozzo and other works of art from churches at Carsoli, Luco and Trasacco.
Madonna del Carmine: (left) portal; (right) chapel of the transept
The church was built in 1573 by Costanza Piccolomini d'Aragona. She was the last of her family to possess Celano, because she was forced to sell the fiefdom to the Peretti owing to the dissolute behaviour of her husband Alessandro who was charged with sorcery practices and jailed. She became a nun in 1596 after her marriage had been annulled.
Introductory page to this section
Atri - the Town
Atri - the Cathedral
Borgocollefegato and the Cicolano
Chieti - Roman memories
L'Aquila - the Vale
L'Aquila - Historical outline
L'Aquila - S. Maria di Collemaggio
L'Aquila - S. Bernardino
L'Aquila - Other churches
L'Aquila - Other monuments
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)