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S. Maria Laurentia di Bevagna

[image ALT: It is the façade of the church of S. Maria Laurentia in Bevagna, Umbria (central Italy).]

The façade of S. Maria Laurentia: 13c.
(As usual, one or more parked cars made any better shot impossible.)

[image ALT: A very plain round-arched Romanesque stone doorway, in which the only decoration is a carving applied to the otherwise equally plain lunette. It is the door of the church of S. Maria Laurentia in Bevagna, Umbria (central Italy).]

Very little is known about this church, although just conceivably something may have been over­looked in an archive somewhere. According to Giulio Urbini (Spello, Bevagna, Monte­falco, published in 1913 — p70) S. Maria Laurentia, or maybe more properly S. Maria in Laurenza, is said to have been founded in the time of the emperor Frederic II (d. 1250); the earliest extant written record of it only goes back to 1293.

The door itself is elegant and well-proportioned: a rounded arch, two barely receding archivolts, some minimal capitals and a bit of toothed ornament; good rural Romanesque.

The main decorative item, however, is much less successful. Into the space over the door — not really a tympanum, but a blank lunette — has been inset a very primitive carving of Mary breastfeeding her Baby, captioned with a very easy inscription:


Ave Maria gratia plena! Dominus tecum.

— not so much an inscription as a salutation, and thus appropriately placed over the doors of Marian churches: see for example, in a much more sophisticated style, the church of S. Maria at Ponte in another part of Umbria.

[image ALT: A primitive and awkward depiction in stone of the Virgin Mary giving suck to the Baby Jesus. It is a detail of the door of the church of S. Maria Laurentia in Bevagna, Umbria (central Italy).]

This door is as open as I've ever seen it: I need to stay in Bevagna a few days, lie in ambush for a time free of cars in which I can sneak a better photo, and rustle up a key.

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Page updated: 31 Aug 05