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Roman Stone and Romanesque Architecture:
S. Angelo Sconcolo


[image ALT: A small house-like stone building with a gently sloping roof, a chimney and a 3‑arched window. The building is surrounded by trees and brambles. It is the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo in Collesecco, Umbria (central Italy).]

From the road, with its chimney, its residential-type window and plastered exterior on the side, our church might pass as just another house. Only the arched triple window (see close‑up) suggests otherwise; maybe we'd better stop the car and go explore.

On foot, we find there's no room even for a wide-angle view of the façade: S. Angelo sits on a small mound just above the road; back up a bit into those brambles, and you'll fall off.

We can still see the careful fitted 13c stonework of small blocks of pink and white limestone, and more intriguingly, some massive blocks of Roman travertine, typically used at the structurally important corners: what large Roman building did they come from? Notice also the inferior masonry on the right, of smaller, irregular stones set in mortar, marking a much later addition:


[image ALT: A very oblique view of a 2‑story stone building with a single arched door, a thin ledge above it, and above that, a three-arched window. Although the structure is built of fairly regular courses of small fitted rectangular stones, the corner in the foreground includes several much larger blocks of stone. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo in Collesecco, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: A very oblique view of a 2‑story stone building with a single arched door, a thin ledge above it, and above that, a three-arched window. The structure is built of fairly regular courses of small fitted rectangular stones, although in the foreground an annex is partly visible of much less careful masonry. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo in Collesecco, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: The sill of a small door, consisting of a siege large piece of stone with occasional spongy holes. It is a block of ancient Roman travertine in the façade of the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo in Collesecco, Umbria (central Italy).]

The doorstep too is Roman travertine;
a good place for this hard-wearing variety of limestone.

But, as with many Romanesque churches, the thing to see is not the façade of the building, but the apse; so 180° around the church we go, until we can no longer see the road:


[image ALT: The back of a small stone building, taken up mostly by a low cylindrical mass divided into three vertical sections by engaged columns connected by arcading. It is a view of the apse of the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo in Collesecco, Umbria (central Italy).]

The classic appeal of this view is entirely due to the blind arcading,
a hallmark of rural Romanesque thruout Europe; in Umbria, usually 13c.

Now if you've travelled in the area, even repeatedly, and failed to see any of this, don't feel too bad: although the town of Collesecco does alert you to S. Angelo with a sign a few hundred meters away, where the road branches off to Ponte di Ferro, no sign marks the actual church; nor is it mentioned in either the Touring Club Italiano's guidebook — the most comprehensive complete guide to Umbria that exists — nor in Umbria Romanica in the Jaca Books collection, the best commonly available work on the Romanesque churches of Umbria.

Two-barreled moral: Keep your eyes open; and Italy is far richer in beautiful stuff than even the best guidebook lets on.


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Page updated: 6 May 05