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Just Past the Cemetery

The Church of S. Giovanni Decollato near Cannara


[image ALT: A three-quarters view of a single-story windowless brick building with a gently sloping tile roof and an arched door, off-centered to the viewer's right. It is the medieval church of S. Giovanni Decollato near Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]

The façade of the 14c chapel. We're looking roughly east, and the actual town of Cannara is on the road into the background, offscreen left, a 15‑minute walk, more or less.

This simple country chapel can be found SW of Cannara, about 1½ km, maybe a bit more, as you head toward Pian d' Arca and Bevagna. If the exterior of the church is very plain, with only dentilled cornices to relieve its simplicity, the interior is decorated with frescoes by Dono Doni, dated 1541; frescoes are easy to detach — so, like most rural churches in Italy, it is closed.

What very little information is easily available, most of it on the Web, includes the nugget that it was once part of a lepers' colony. Now I don't know what the ultimate source of that statement is, but it certainly seems reasonable: for a leprosarium it is conveniently, so to speak, in the middle of nowhere — from Cannara, it's about 500 meters beyond the cemetery with which the very name of the church suggests a connection; S. Giovanni Decollato honors the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, and very often churches are given that name when they are the last stop of condemned criminals before execution, or their burial place: the church by that name in Rome is a good example. Until I find out otherwise — se sei della zona e/o hai delle informazioni più ampie, sarò lietissimo di sentirti — my conjecture is that the chapel originally commemorated one specific execution many centuries ago: the area is not so populated as to have a large and frequent contingent of condemned criminals.


[image ALT: A side view of a single-story windowless brick building with a gently sloping tile roof, with a small projecting round apse, about 60% as high. Where the wall joins the roof, it is decorated by a long series of minimal blind arcading, reduced almost to dentils. It is the north side of the medieval church of S. Giovanni Decollato near Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]

The north side of the church.
If we could see thru masonry and low hills, we'd be looking at Limigiano and Bevagna.

At any rate, S. Giovanni was restored at both ends of the 20c. The first restoration, I wasn't around to see; but the second, I was: although all the photos on this page were taken in 2004, clicking on the first and last of them will let you compare them with photos I took in 1997, just forty-eight hours after the earthquake that did so much damage to Umbria; the big crack on the façade had to be repaired for sure, and that must only be part of it.


[image ALT: A three-quarters view, from the rear, of a single-story windowless brick building with a gently sloping tile roof, in which the small projecting round apse, about 60% as high, is clearly seen. It is the medieval church of S. Giovanni Decollato near Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]


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Page updated: 11 Jul 12