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Bill Thayer

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L'Aquila (L'Aquila province)

A town of western Abruzzo: 42°21N, 13°24E. Altitude: 710 m. Population in 2003: 69,100.

[image ALT: Part of a stone water-trough, about eight meters long, then in the background angling 90 degrees to the right; water pours into the trough from spouts in the mouths of dozens of small heads, many different, some of them grotesques. The heads are separated by square plaques each with a rosette in the center. From the trough the water pours into a lower trough via unadorned outlets. Above the heads, an ornamental ledge making them seem from a distance to be corbels, and above that a large expanse of vertical wall of contrasting square blocks of stone. It is the Fontana delle 99 Cannelle, a medieval fountain in L' Aquila, Abruzzo (central Italy).]

The Fontana delle 99 Cannelle: a 13c fountain with 99 spouts.
You're seeing less than a quarter of it.

L'Aquila is a provincial capital high above the Aterno river in the western flank of the Abruzzo, 113 km ENE of Rome, 58 km E of Rieti (Lazio); and 100 km W of Pescara the long way: the main road goes dozens of kilometers around some of the highest mountains in peninsular Italy.

The town has a definite urban feel to it, yet you're never very far from the rather wild surrounding mountains; so that if you want fresh air and water, this is the place. The fountain you see above, for example, very curiously considering that it's the universally recognized symbol of L'Aquila, is at the very edge of the city, about 30 meters from open country. Not all the many fountains are old, either: one of the largest and most attractive is late 20c.

As I found out in a sweltering week of August, L'Aquila often stays cool in the summer: that may be useful information!

The one sight you must not miss is the elegant, handsome, historic church — also almost out of town — of S. Maria di Collemaggio, the site of the first Jubilee, decreed by the controversial Pope Celestine V, a native of the area. For the Catholic Church he is a saint, but Dante puts him in Hell: either way, his imposing tomb is in the church.

A massive and perfectly preserved fortress, built in 1534 by the Spaniard viceroy of Naples to intimidate the Aquilani after a revolt, is now the attractive centerpiece of a large park at the other end of town. Several other large medieval churches round out the picture.

A small website is slowly appearing here, since I've been to L'Aquila, if briefly.


[image ALT: A fresco inside an ogival arch, on what appears to be a wall blocking it up. The fresco represents the Coronation of the Virgin: the lower part shows an empty rectangular tomb surrounded by eleven draped and haloed figures, standing or sitting, and above, a mandorla with Christ on our right, seated and crowning Mary, seated on our left. It is in the basilica of S. Maria di Collemaggio in L' Aquila, Abruzzo (central Italy).]

[ 4/7/09: 13 churches, 1 page, 14 photos ]

On April 6, 2009 L' Aquila was hit by a massive earthquake, with often severe damage to her churches. I will be writing such pages as I can on these churches, with photographs naturally; I've started with an orientation page: an initial sampler consisting of one bare photograph of each of those I've seen.


[ALT dell' immagine: An old photo of the church of S. Maria del Suffragio in L' Aquila; it serves as the icon for the republication on my site of the book by Luigi Serra on the city.]

[ 142 pages of print; 141 photos, 1 plan ]

In 1929 art historian Luigi Serra published a handsome book on the city, which book had remained under copyright thru 31 Dec 2010 — amazing laws — but finally fell into the public domain:

Aquila covers the history of art in the capital of the Abruzzo from the (rather sparse) Roman remains up to modern art (that is, contemporaneous with the author). The riches of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance will naturally hold our attention most strongly.

You may find it useful to read what the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about the town; and the Aug. 30, 2000 entry of my diary, which also has an exterior photo of the Basilica di Collemaggio. Pending my own webpages, detailed information is provided in the websites below; and for a comprehensive page on how to get to L'Aquila, by rail, bus, plane, and car, see Pierangelo Marcati's page.


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Page updated: 10 Dec 09