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The Chapel of the Madonna dei Confini

[image ALT: A small, rustic, almost single-room building of rough stone masonry with a tile-roofed porch, on a slight rise of the terrain next to two tall pine trees to the right and another one, seemingly smaller, in the left background. Under that porch and nearby, small stacks of construction materials. It is the church of the Madonna dei Confini near Montone, Umbria (central Italy).]

The chapel in February 2004, undergoing restoration.

Confini (or a variant, as at Configni near Acquasparta) is a name not infrequently met with in remotish rural areas of Italy, since it means "edges", "border", "boundary": here, this isolated little church dedicated to the Virgin, half a mile or more from the nearest farm in a very sparsely inhabited pocket of hills, is near the confines of the comuni of Montone and Pietralunga — or at least so it is in our own time; I don't know how old the name is, nor whether some other boundary might have been meant when it was first given.

The church is old; but just how old, precisely, is also hard to say. The building may well be noted in an obscure manuscript listing the holdings of some local monastic order, since detailed records have been kept of such properties for centuries: but without research in ecclesiastical or regional archives, we have nothing to go by beyond its appearance. At any rate, while it's always possible for a church to have existed here in the early Middle Ages, what we see surely dates no farther back than the 16c: the characteristic plain rectangular door and windows are in fact very likely even more recent — rural architecture is notoriously conservative — and have every appearance of being the originals, all built at the same time and not replacing anything earlier. My guess therefore is that the chapel belongs to the mid‑17c, maybe a few decades later: it's just a guess. I would have liked to see the inside, which might settle the question.

The restoration of the little church was completed a couple of years after my visit. It is consecrated and in occasional use: in accordance with the prescriptions of canon law, Mass must be said here at least once a year, and as elsewhere thruout Italy a remote rural chapel sees its people on its special feast day or the nearest Sunday. September 8, the Virgin Mary's birthday, is convenient, usually offering very nice weather, and in 2006 a Sunday in September marked the successful restoration: for a photo of the attractive interior, and others, see Judith Klinger's page.

[image ALT: A small rustic building of rough stone masonry with a pair of very short projecting structures on the roof: one is a belfry of the type called in Italian 'campanile a vela', marking the building as a church; the other is a square or hexagonal lantern somewhat less than a meter tall. The church sits on the lower slope of a slight rise in the wooded terrain on the left of the photo, which is skirted by the dirt access road that curves toward the right background. It is a view of the church of the Madonna dei Confini near Montone, Umbria (central Italy).]

As I first came upon her: the Madonna dei Confini, at the bend of a road heading generally eastward to Moravola. (See my diary, Feb. 29, 2004.)

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Page updated: 30 Oct 17