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Arts and Crafts, Italian Style:
S. Maria della Stella in Allerona


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

The present parish church of S. Maria della Stella (properly S. Maria Assunta), at the summit of the steep little hill that is Allerona, was originally built in the 12c to serve the castle that at the time was pretty much all there was: today's village is a late arrival. The interior of the church is a late arrival as well, the result of a thorough rebuilding toward the end of the 19c by engineer and architect Paolo Zampi, who also worked on the cathedral of Orvieto his home town, the church of S. Nicolò at Baschi, and others. The nondescript medieval building is thus mostly a shell that serves as a canvas for 19c decorative work, similar in feel to the products of the British Arts and Crafts Movement.


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

Over the centuries, what must once have been a free-standing church, gradually saw houses accreted to it.

One of the problems to be solved then by the 19c architect was how to provide enough light when the building no longer had outside walls on two sides. Here, though, although I don't absolutely know it for a fact, the stone panes are not medieval, but are surely due to Zampi: a solution that illumines the interior as much as possible while avoiding the cold glare of clear glass. Such a use of thin slices of alabaster goes back to Late Antiquity when sheet glass was very rare and expensive, and the High Middle Ages when glass had been forgotten altogether; here we can call it Late Antique Revival.


[image ALT: zzz. They are windows of the church of S. Maria della Stella in Allerona, Umbria (central Italy).]
		
[image ALT: zzz. They are windows of the church of S. Maria della Stella in Allerona, Umbria (central Italy).]
The windows on the right side of the nave,
seen from the inside and the outside.

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

Looking toward what ought to be the façade (but the entrance to the church is on the side, barely seen here to the left under the organ loft); away from the altar, at any rate —


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

— and toward the altar.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the trusswork ceiling of the church of S. Maria della Stella in Allerona, Umbria (central Italy).]

The trusswork roof: for decorative effect the architect relied on the natural color of the local bricks, matching to them his painting of the wood.


[image ALT: An elaborately decorated painted five-part Gothic rib vault: in the center, the Virgin Mary; to the sides rather far away, antiphonal choirs of musician angels. Occasional lily flowers are strewn in the lower part of the sections. It is a view of the vault in the choir of the church of S. Maria della Stella in Allerona, Umbria (central Italy).]

And saving the best for last: the choir vault, an Assumption of the Virgin frescoed by the 27‑year‑old Sienese painter Arturo Viligiardi (1869‑1936); in the lunettes, scenes from her life, with the central moment, the Annunciation, almost completely cropped here, yet quite recognizable.


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Page updated: 15 Jun 14