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S. Maria e SS. Croce

A manorial chapel near Umbertide

[image ALT: A stone tower of square section, about 15 meters high, with a small door at the base. It is the church of S. Maria e S. Croce at Migianella de' Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

As I wandered around the castle hamlet of Migianella de' Marchesi, at the time (February 2004) weedy and seemingly deserted, one building stood out from almost every angle, as we saw on the first page: its church, or more properly the belfry we see here. Square stone belfries with the occasional course of brick are seen thruout Umbria; they often belong to the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Here, the church itself is unusually small for so prominent a tower; not counting the sacristy, it consists of a single room accommodating maybe no more than forty people standing close together; properly it is a manorial chapel as we find often enough attached to castles in Italy. It fronts on a patch of weeds so narrow that a straight photograph of the façade is not possible. Not to worry, you're not missing much, except for the inscription over the door:

[image ALT: missingALT near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

· E · S · MA=
· S · S · CRVCIS ·

Ecclesia Sanctae Ma-
riae, et
Sanctissimi Crucis

The church of Saint Mary, and of the Most Holy Cross

It's unusual to see hyphens and commas in inscriptions: I suspect this marks it as a 19c or 20c pastiche rather than the 16c or 17c plaque it is meant to look like. A further mystery is that the church has historically been titled St. Michael, as you read on my first page; isolated churches on the tops of hills and mountains often are, both generally thruout Western Europe and in Umbria at Acquasparta, Cortigno, or Limigiano, for example.

[image ALT: missingALT near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

When I saw the chapel, in 2004 — you can read my diary entry written the same day — it was being worked on, clearly after some years of neglect and possibly vandalism.

The space you see above is most of the church, but there are two symmetrical side altars along the walls. The tiny rectangular tile on the left side of this one tells a bit more of the story: the altar was consecrated during the Holy Year of 1950. S. Maria e SS. Croce must have been a living church at the time, and may well have been received that name then, on the occasion of the promulgation of the Dogma of the Assumption mentioned on the tile.

[image ALT: A niche with a small plaster or stone table and above it a small niche. It is a semi-vandalized altar in the ruined church of S. Maria e S. Croce at Migianella de' Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

In the years since my visit, the church has reverted to its original name, and been nicely restored. Migianella houses no permanent local population, so the chapel is only used for the occasional intimate wedding.

[image ALT:zzz. It is the niche over the main altar in the church of S. Michele in the castle hamlet of Migianella dei Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The elegant Renaissance niche over the main altar, remarkable for its depiction of the Cross as an anchor — in Christ is our Hope, toward which lean the other two crosses of the sinners crucified with him — is no longer empty.

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Page updated: 5 Sep 16