The road that leads to the abbey of San Pietro in Valle runs along the Nera Valley is a monument by itself, flanked by green wooded mountains dotted with the ruins of medieval towers built many years ago to control the valley.
On one of these mountains, the Monte Solenne, lies the amazing abbey of San Pietro in Valle, a Benedictine monastery of the twelfth century, breathtaking for majesty and charm: the man’s work is set in a lush nature.
Entering the monastery the first space is the guardhouse, in which there were a store room, a salon where pilgrims were refreshed, and the Guardian monk’s lodging, now used as a reception of the Residence.
After the guardhouse, the rooftop garden: 1600 meters of emerald green meadow, at its end the apse of the church and the beautiful bell tower. From the long balustrade the gaze is lost in the mountains in front of us and the abandoned village of Umbriano (that can be reached by a trail) the sky, the nature…
It was here in the garden that took place the market where monks and pilgrims exchanged their goods.
An archway leads to a charming little cloister, with the coat of arms of the noble Ancajani family from Spoleto, former owner of the abbey, and, above the arched entrance to the cloister, a fresco representing the Madonna and Saints. Here once tthere was the guesthouse, on two floors there were some rooms and a living room, where the monks gave shelter to the pilgrims.
The enchanting cloister is adorned with columns on three sides, on the fourth two staircases give access to the church and the cells, now rooms, and the lovely porch.
The abbey is now an hotel de Charme: the rooms are the former cells of the monks, and the Abbot, which is wider, with a fireplace in it.
The abbey hides recent “traces”, too: in the reading room there is a fresco with scenes from the life of St. Francis, and in a room there is a particular “tombstone” painted on the wall. These are the traces left by the set of “Marcelino pan y vino”, a movie shot in 1955.
The cloister overlooks the door through which the monks entered in the church, flanked by two high relief with St. Peter and St. Paul, once polychromatic.
The interior of the ancient church is enriched with important frescoes that can still be admired. With a single nave, a bigger apse and two smaller apses at the side, the beamed ceiling, the church houses a series of frescoes of the Umbrian school with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. These frescoes are of tremendous value because the author, 150 years before Giotto, didn’t paint the figures in frontal poses as it used to be, giving them more natural and plastic poses.
Of great significance is the main altar. It dates from the 8th century and is very rare, because it’s signed by the author: a certain Ursus. Inside the church there are five beautiful Roman sarcophagus, too.
In the surroundings of San Pietro in Valle there are several marked tracks, like the easy one, along the Nera River, which leads to the village of Macenano, to enjoy history, the monastic experience and the peculiar Umbrian atmosphere, steeped in the legacy of St. Francis and St. Benedict, who taught us to respect and enjoy what, in creation, has been given us.
by Benedetta Tintillini
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