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S. Maria della Visitazione

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This plain country church stands about 250 meters north of the main gate of Leonessa, on the road northward to the Umbrian border and Monte­leone, where it crosses the via di Villa Lucci. It's an old church, yet not in the town proper: such isolated churches belong to cemeteries or convents, or are special shrines owing their origin to a miracle or a roadside image. S. Maria's popular name, la chiesa dell' Immagine, puts it in the last group; the details when we come to the interior.

If the first mention in surviving documents of a church at this spot dates to 1393, what we see now seems to date to the 16c or maybe just a bit later, and the building, as we might expect of a chapel on the edges of a small and fairly remote mountain town, is plain and undramatic: rubble masonry, its Abruzzo-style façade embellished only by a classic well-proportioned arched door the keystone of which bears a variant of the Savior's badge made popular by St. Nicholas of Tolentino; and at the back, the standard campanile a vela or open belfry seen thruout rural Italy.

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The door actually deserves a closer look, if just a quick one: a decorative spiral motif attracted my attention, at least, since I'd seen it or something very much like it, in some odd places elsewhere in town, and can't remember ever having seen it beyond Leonessa. Here it is, for the expert to make something of:

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The interior of the church, with a beautiful 15c fresco, explains its popular name of "Church of the Image"; and gives us one more glimpse of Leonessa's hometown saint in a characteristic setting.

Finally, for completeness' sake, especially since you've half-seen it and may be wondering what it is, the War Monument along the E side of the church:

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The inscription on the open book just reads

ai caduti di tutte le guerre

gli Alpini di Leonessa 1996

To the fallen of all wars, the Leonessa Mountain Rangers 1996.

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Page updated: 30 Apr 12