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Lost Churches of Terracina. 2 of 5

Lost Churches of Terracina. 2 of 5

Second appointment A Spasso con Sara to discover the lost churches of Terracina.

 

Our journey in the Christian and medieval Terracina continues.

As we saw at the beginning of this special series, the first Christian churches of Terracina are born in the area of La Valle, outside the town.

Their presence in the urban fabric is certain only between the 8th and 9th centuries AD. This was the period in which documents presuppose the existence of the Cathedral of San Cesareo, the most important church in the city. To it are then added new churches, born between the 11th and 12th centuries AD. (Romanic age) and the 13th and 14th centuries (Gothic age) A.D., phases in which Terracina was affected by profound historical, political and urban changes.

 

Detail of the decoration of the pulpit of the Cathedral of San Cesareo of Terracina (Credits: worldtourisminfo.com).

 

The fulcrum of this second chapter is the area of the Emilian Forum, the ancient square paved by the local magistrate Aulus Aemilius at the end of the 1st century BC.

 

Detail of the original paving of the Emilian Forum. You can still see the furrows of the bronze letters bearing the signature of the magistrate Aulus Aemilius who paid for the pavement of the square.

 

The life of this public space did not stop, in fact, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD), but continued, under new forms, throughout the Middle Ages.

The landscape of the area changed. Tower houses, Romanic domus and Gothic style invade much of the paved forensic, whose free space narrows. Once the open side towards the sea has disappeared, Piazza San Cesareo – this is the new name taken from the square dominated by the Cathedral – is defined as a place closed in on itself.

 

The square of the ancient Emilian Forum in an engraving by L. Rossini (Credits: MR Coppola 1984).

S. Maria della Scala

And, in fact, right next to the current seat of the Municipality, there was S. Maria della Scala.

 

The area once occupied by Le Scalelle.

Located along Via delle Scalelle, from which it clearly derived its name, the church must have existed as early as the thirteenth century AD. The Scalelle flanked the Torre dei Rosa (the Tower next to the Bar del Duomo and home to the Pio Capponi Civic Museum) and, descending to the Vicolo Sottosusto (between Palazzo Braschi on the right and the foundations of the new Municipium on the left), connected the current Piazza Municipio with the area of Posterula.

 

The Vicolo Sottosusto in an old photograph (Credits: MR Coppola 1984).

 

A district of S. Maria delle Scalelle is attested by some of the documents of the 16th century. However, nothing remains of it or of the church. The bombardments of 1943-44 and the subsequent construction of the current Municipium have erased all traces of this urban layout.

 

 

S. Maria del Tempio

We move just outside the square, near the Vicolo Pertinace.

Here, in Roman times, stood the four-sided arch. Articulated in four large arches straddling the ancient Via Appia, it guaranteed access to the Foro Emiliano from the East.

 

 Reconstruction of the ancient four-sided arch of the Emilian Forum (V. Grossi 2003).

 

The area, starting from the medieval age, was occupied by a series of buildings (you can even see the hinge of a door along the jamb of one of the arches) that survived even in modern times and were swept away by the bombardments of 1943-44.

The medieval quarter was that of the Templum (perhaps because of the proximity of the presumed temple of Vicolo Pertinace) and in its heart, exactly at the crossroads between Vicolo Pertinace and the first stretch of the current Salita dell’Annunziata, was located, since the 9th century AD, S. Maria del Tempio. More than a church, it was a chapel, whose existence is still documented at the beginning of the 16th century. At the beginning of the following century it was transformed into a cellar.

 

The area behind Vicolo Pertinace and the ancient four-sided arch of the Emilian Forum (the remains of which are still visible on the right).

 

S. Domitilla

Just in front of it was the Church of Santa Domitilla.

A plaque still in situ, walled on one of the sides of the present Piazza Santa Domitilla, reminds us that the original chapel was built in 1619 by Pomponio de Magistris, bishop of the city, in the area of the room where the virgins Domitilla, Euphrosyne and Teodora were burned. The place of worship stood, therefore, close to the Porta Albina, the eastern entrance to the ancient city demolished between 1831 and 1850 (its presence is remembered by the still existing funerary lions that in the Middle Ages were placed in front of the door).

 

Piazza Santa Domitilla. In evidence is the plaque walled up still in situ that remembers the location of the original church before its destruction and its transfer to the Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina.

 

Some works of enlargement and reorganization of the square, however, determined the demolition of the church in the nineteenth century that was rebuilt within the adjacent Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina.

The new chapel, of neoclassical shape, disappeared, however, in turn. Deconsecrated after 1950, it was purchased by the Municipality of Terracina in 1986. Today it houses the entrance and the bookshop of the new museum of Terracina.

 

The old Chapel of Santa Domitilla in the Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina (today the bookshop and the entrance of the new museum of Terracina).

 

S. Nicola a Porta Albina

Immediately outside Porta Albina, mentioned above, stood instead San Nicola a Porta Albina, whose presence is attested since the eleventh century AD. The religious building was just outside the door, along the Salita dell’Annunziata.

Still in operation in the fourteenth century AD, disappeared in subsequent centuries. The parish of reference of Borgo dell’Annunziata was, in fact, progressively replaced by the Chiesa dell’Annunziata.

 

One of the funeral lions placed in front of Porta Albina. Behind it stood the Church of San Nicola a Porta Albina.

 

 

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, 0 comments
Lost Churches of Terracina. 1 of 5

Lost Churches of Terracina. 1 of 5

A tale between the Middle Ages and the modern and contemporary age. A real walk through time. 5 mini episodes about the lost churches of Terracina (Latina, Italy). A special edition of A Spasso con Sara.

A unique case: a history linked to that of Rome

Terracina is an example of a city with continuity of life. Probably the center of the Ausoni at the end of the sixth century BC, was perhaps already under Roman rule shortly after, being mentioned in the first treaty between Romans and Carthaginians reported by the Greek historian Polibius. It fell into the hands of the Volscians and was regained by the Romans in 406 BC. After a bloody spring and pull with the Volscians, in 329 B.C. the descendants of Romulus founded a colonia maritima there. From that moment, the fate of Anxur-Tarracina was indisputably linked to that of Rome and its history can be largely inscribed within the wider framework of the city.

 

The city of Terracina and its distance from Rome.

 

Christianity in Terracina

And like Rome, also the ancient Terracina was invested, starting from the first century AD, by that phenomenon of universal importance that was Christianity. The new religion, centred on the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, saw in Terracina the birth of an early community, presumably thanks to the Appian Way and the port, which had the merit of connecting the small town of Lazio with Rome (at the time the largest metropolis in the ancient world) and with the most remote corners of his empire.

A stretch of the Appian Way along the northern side of the Aemilian Forum of Terracina.

 

St. Peter’s in Terracina?

It is said that, thanks to the Appian Way, Saint Peter visited Terracina. When he landed in Puglia, the Prince of the Apostles set off on a journey to the city where, according to tradition, he lived for twenty years and found himself martyred.

The Appian Way, as is well known, was built in 312 B.C. and extended until Brindisi, connecting Rome with the south of Italy. And the Regina Viarum (the name by which the Appia was known throughout the world) crossed the heart of the town of Terracina. Consequently, anyone who wanted to reach Rome from the south of Italy, had to pass through our city. Although we do not have material traces that concretely document the stopover of St. Peter at Terracina, we can declare quite plausible the hypothesis of his crossing of the city.

 

The Crucifixion of St. Peter in a famous painting by Caravaggio in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome (Credits: arte.it).

 

The first Christian community in the city

A Christian community certainly existed in Terracina in the sixth century AD. In fact, a letter written by Pope Gregory the Great dates back to that time and, in 590 A.D., was addressed to Peter, bishop of the city, and to his community. The document, very precious, indirectly attests to the existence of an Ecclesia Terracinese (and also of a Jewish) but not that of a cathedral building connected to it.

It is very likely that the first churches of Terracina were located in the western part of its territory, outside the town protected by the walls (the last of which date back to the first decade of the fifth century AD). This area, drained by the Romans through special hydraulic systems and divided by them into many small agricultural plots, housed, in fact, the tombs of San Cesareo and San Silviano, the first martyrs of the city. Not by chance, it has gone down in history with the name of Valley of Saints.

La Valle of Terracina. Scheme of the ancient Roman centuriation and position of the ancient town (in orange).

Religion and Christian rites were practiced in hiding. In fact, it was necessary to wait until 313 A.D., the year of Constantine’s edict of tolerance, so that Christianity could be professed in the light of the sun like the many other new religions that were spreading at that time.

In Terracina, therefore, in the early Christian era (III – IV century AD) the churches as we understand them did not exist! Perhaps the ancient rustic villas of La Valle were used, with a phenomenon very similar to that of the domus ecclesiae of Rome. Those who, in essence, had a large space, made it available to the community for the celebration of Mass.

 

Basement of the large rustic villa in Monticchio ne La Valle di Terracina.

Churches come into the city

Churches only entered the city in the Carolingian age (VIII-IX century A.D.). At that time, in fact, Pope Leo IV (847-855 AD) donated a series of liturgical objects and furnishings to the Cathedral of Terracina. Its donation presupposes the presence, at least from the ninth century AD, of a cathedral building, which used, in part, the remains of the ancient Tempio Maggiore of the Aemilian Forum. Shortly after, the original city parishes connected to the first churches were also born, on which the subsequent urban development depended.

 

The Cathedral of Terracina.

A new phase began in the Romanic period (XI – XII century A.D.), marked by the birth of new churches. The city, characterized by a strong increase in population, expanded with five new villages leaning against its walls and each with its own parish church.

The subsequent Gothic period (13th-14th centuries AD) also saw the construction of new Christian buildings of worship. Two important convents were also built, that of San Francesco, on the hill of the same name, and that of San Domenico, inspired by the Cistercian tradition of the nearby Abbey of Fossanova.

 

The last transformation: the modern age

In modern times, after a first partial abandonment of the religious building heritage of the city (XVI – XVII century AD), it was recovered thanks to Pius VI Braschi, whose name is inextricably linked to that of Terracina, chosen as the physical end of the great work of draining of the Pontine Marshes promoted by him. And so, as part of a more general plan for the reorganization and revision of the city, some of its ancient churches disappeared, others were renovated, others were built from scratch.

 

The pope Pius VI (Credits: www.museivaticani.va).

 

 

But now I’m stopping here! For further details and to discover the names, location and traces of the lost churches of Terracina, I invite you to follow me in the next episodes of #aspassoconsara

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, 0 comments