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Bill Thayer

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Tolentino (Macerata province)

A town of the southern Marche: 43°13N 13°17E.   Altitude: 288 m   Population (2003): 18,800

[image ALT: The upper story of a large stone building, comprising a flat windowless wall with a bas-relief of a stylized sun and rays in the center, flanked by a colossal empty arched niche on either side, and surmounted by a balustrade and a cross. It is the upper portion of the façade of the Basilica of S. Nicola in Tolentino, a town in the Marche (central Italy).]

The 18c façade of the Basilica of S. Nicola.

Tolentino is a relatively nondescript small town which it would be easy to skip in a tour of central Italy. This being Italy, of course, the place is of the hoariest antiquity, a stronghold of the Piceni, a tribe that gave the Romans a good deal of trouble before they were finally conquered, and there are vestiges of both peoples in the town's museum. This being Italy, you will also see several medieval churches, of which the oldest, despite its cold neoclassical façade, is S. Catervo, the cathedral, which dates back to the 4c and preserves the actual 4c marble sarcophagus of St. Catervus: and recent excavations have brought to light some of the saint's original Roman mausoleum. A rather striking 13c towered bridge, tall and narrow, forms the entrance to the city from the S: somewhat predictably monikered the Ponte del Diavolo, or Devil's Bridge.

But such riches are common thruout the Marche — yet Tolentino is not to be skipped, and if you are planning a trip anywhere in the area, you should even make a detour to see it, for the town's one great sight, the Basilica of S. Nicola. St. Nicholas of Tolentino (1246‑1306) was a local man who became a priest in the Augustinian Order, with a talent for gentleness and good sermons: he was canonized in 1446 and his home church, which he knew as S. Agostino, was rededicated to him. It is famous throughout Italy for the Cappellone, a large nearly cubical room adjoining the church proper, frescoed from floor to ceiling in the early 14c.

A small website should eventually appear here, since I've been to Tolentino briefly and taken my usual rolls of photos. Pending the formal website though, you may find it useful to read the Aug. 13‑14, 2000 entries of my diary, with 2 more photos; for more complete and detailed information, you should see the sites in the navigation bar at the foot of this page, of course.

As a first couple of steps toward that proper website:

[image ALT: A painting depicting four robed men sleeping in a rocky landscape. It is a detail of the frescoes in the Cappellone of the church of S. Nicola in Tolentino, a town in the Marche (central Italy).]

[ 8/16/03: 7 pages, 7 photos ]

The Cappellone, or "Great Chapel" is only one room of the basilica, but it's hands down the best art in town; in fact, it's generally viewed as the single most important monument in the entire province. Right now, my site covers about 10% of it.

A brief article on the town from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, with an added photo of my own.


Like most of the comuni in Italy, Tolentino includes in its territory some smaller towns and hamlets, of a few hundred inhabitants if that, with a certain administrative identity of their own: as elsewhere in Italy, these are referred to as the frazioni of the comune (singular: frazione, literally a "fraction"): a complete list of them follows, linked where possible.

Abbadia di Fiastra • Acquasalata • Ancaiano • Asinina • Bura • Calcavenaccio • Casa di Cristo • Casone • Cisterna • Collina • Colmaggiore • Divina Pastora • Fontajello • Fontebigoncio • Grazie • Maestà • Massaccio • Pace • Parruccia • Paterno • Pianarucci • Pianciano • Pianibianchi • Portanova • Rambona • Rancia • Regnano • Ributino • Riolante • Rofanello • Rosciano • Rotondo • S. Andrea • S. Angelo • S. Bartolomeo • S. Croce • S. Diego • S. Giovanni • S. Giuseppe • S. Lucia • S. Martino • S. Rocco • Salcito • SS. Redentore • Troiano • Vaglie • Vicigliano

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Page updated: 27 Oct 17