A Baroque Church Lost in The Hills of Abruzzo

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Pietranico is a small easy-to-ignore village in the province of Pescara, Abruzzo. 600 villagers go about their daily lives without being disturbed by curious tourists. It is not exactly known when Pietranico was founded but there is a mention of this place in a document dating back to the 12th century. There are ruins of a medieval castle covered with ivy and weeds and an arch left from the entrance to the village reminding about the respectable age of Pietranico.

However, near the village is hidden away a real gem that very few know about, the church S.Maria della Croce. I was brought there by an architect who grew up in the area and described it as one of the best preserved baroque churches in Abruzzo. The church was built in this isolated place at the beginning of the 17th century after a miracle when a local peasant saw Madonna here in 1613. From the outside the little church looks austere and somewhat bulky.

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As I stepped inside on a sunny hot day, it took a minute or so for my eyes to adjust and make out the dimly lit interior. The rich decor and colours absolutely took my breath away! The paintings on the ceiling depicted the life of Madonna. The artist left his signature and the date: Angelino di Beffi, 1630. The prophets in the right side chapel were painted by Tommaso Bernardino from l’Aquila in 1628, who also signed his work: “thome bernardini aquilani opus”.

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There was some slight damage done by the earthquake in 2009 and some of the fresco painting have been deteriorating because of the humidity, so there are talks of restauration works for next year’s 400-year anniversary of the church foundation.

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…The church was empty that day. The guilded baroque reliefs were glimmering contrasted by the dark wood carvings. The only sound coming from the outside was that of singing cicade, and I wasn’t even sure what time or what year it was…

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