over­looking the town of Scheggia. Part of a very large site on Umbria.">

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The Shrine of Monte Calvario

[image ALT: A largish and rather plain stuccoed building with a symmetrically sloping roof: in the center, a single monumental door with a stone border, and a meter or so above it, a small circular window with a similar border. Behind the façade, a tiled cupola; the symmetry of the whole is broken by a square open belfry, of brick, arising from the façade somewhat left of center. It is the church of The Santuario di Monte Calvario in Scheggia, Umbria (central Italy).]

High on its hill, over­looking all of Scheggia, and led up to by a road punctuated by the fourteen Stations of the Cross, the Shrine of Mount Calvary is very prominently sited; it's from here that we have the view of the entire town that leads off my main page on it. Yet information on the church is elusive, or at least it has been to me.

The church is usually said to date to the late 17c, and certainly that accords with the façade. We should beware of dating Italian churches by their appearance, though: there is now a centuries-old tradition of what a church should look like, and short of very careful examination or documentary evidence, the newer churches, those after the Middle Ages, are very hard to date. The square brick belfry above, for example, is of a 16c type; it was built in 1936, as recorded on the plaque we see on it:

A maggiore gloria di Dio
Questo campanile fu eretto
dal popolo di Scheggia
A-D – 4 – XI – 1936

To the greater glory of God
This belfry was built
by the people of Scheggia
11/4/1936 A.D.

But here too, as often, parts of the building are much older, or so it seems to me: go around to the back, and we see a small rectangular church maybe not a third the size of the whole, and very different: of much the same type of firmly medieval masonry as we see in churches thruout Umbria, rarely imitated in later centuries. (I foolishly have no photo, but an idea can be got from this small page.) The 17c then must merely have been the time when the existing chapel was considerably enlarged, and very likely rededicated to Mount Calvary: in response to what, I can only guess, but there were a number of serious earthquakes at about that time: fertile ground for a pastoral initiative recalling the faithful of the area to penitence while consoling them with the knowledge that they shared in the sufferings of Christ.

And sharing in Christ's sufferings is the theme here, explaining why the Santuario di Monte Calvario has long been a Marian shrine. This may surprise some of us; but while all Christians see in Calvary the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, the Catholic Church is acutely mindful that Christ's mother suffered as intensely; and every Good Friday evening in memory of Mary's anguish in the hours just after Jesus had died, the people of Scheggia carry the statue of the Madonna Addolorata — the Grieving Madonna — down from Calvary hill and in procession thru the town.

[image ALT: A small hall-like space under a dome about 8 meters tall; the dome is lit by at least one visible oval window. In the center, a marble altar with a disproportionately large crucifix above and behind it. Four rows of wooden pews, each accommodating three people, face it on either side of a central carpeted aisle. It is a view of the nave and main altar of the church of Monte Calvario in Scheggia, Umbria (central Italy).]
[image ALT: A small room about 5 meters high and 4 meters on a side, with a marble altar in the center, behind and above which is a rococo plaster niche containing a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary. It is a view of the Chapel of the Virgin of Sorrows in the church of Monte Calvario in Scheggia, Umbria (central Italy).]

The main altar remembers the Crucifixion; a side chapel remembers the Mother of Sorrows, and it is not on the main altar but beneath her statue that the Host is kept: notice the Light of the Presence behind the row of votive candles.

The interior decoration of the church is modern; here, a detail of the ceiling — the Paraclete in glory:

[image ALT: A painted stylized dove against a backdrop of a spray of long pointed leaves. It is a ceiling decoration in the church of Monte Calvario in Scheggia, Umbria (central Italy).]

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Page updated: 24 Jan 17