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S. Maria di Viepri


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]

From a distance, whether from the west or the east, perspective and foliage present to the traveler the abbey of S. Maria in the little town of Viepri as a massive brick belfry, characteristic of Umbrian churches after about the 15c; then, as we approach, as an elegant Gothic lancet window. It's only as we come close that we see it as a Romanesque building: it seems to date to the mid‑12c.

In keeping with the genius of Viepri, the interest of the structure in fact lies almost entirely in its stone fabric: bits of good carving surface here and there, but the eye rests on the spare, minimalist, beautifully executed detailing of the arched main door and the lower window, then ultimately on the fine masonry of local pink and white limestone, which occasionally incorporates some Roman blocks no doubt associated with the nearby Via Flaminia. Looking carefully at the façade, we can also make out the original stone belfry, of a piece with it but oddly shading into the adjacent annex; it must have been struck by lightning, to be replaced by that big square tower that fooled us at first.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]

In case we had any doubts, the sober blind arcading of the apse could not be more typical of the best Umbrian Romanesque. (Cramped by the terrain behind the church, this isn't the best view; we can get a clearer idea of the theme from a simpler if slightly later version of it, at S. Angelo Sconcolo only 8 km N of here.)


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]

Front and back: the main door, the Romanesque apse.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]

This awkward rococo-style 18c escutcheon, on one of the attached buildings, bears witness to Jesus (IHS), Mary (A and M interlaced, as in Ave Maria), and St. Nicholas of Tolentino (the sunburst at the top: for a much more readable and attractive example, see the façade of his shrine in Tolentino). Put it all together, and it suggests that in the 18c, very likely, S. Maria was officiated by Augustinians.

For completeness, here is the church as seen from the south: the uncrowded parking lot awaits the visitor. The people with the key, who will give you access to the interior, live not far off; see my diary, Apr. 23, 2004. Online of course, stepping inside the church is easier.

[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]


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Page updated: 2 Mar 11