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S. Lorenzo di Azzano

[image ALT: A small church, seen in its entirety, from the side. It is about 15 meters long, and windowless, of regular masonry of small stone blocks. To the viewer's left, the front of the church, seen on the bias although the front door is obscured by a small tree; above it rises an open bell-gable twice the height of the rest of the building. It is a view of the church of S. Lorenzo near Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Lorenzo near Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]
S. Lorenzo is one of hundreds of small Romanesque churches dotting the central "lens" of Umbria, the lens-shaped area between the Tiber valley to the west and the Clitunno-Topino system to the east, with the range of hills known as the Colli Martani forming its central backbone. Among those churches, those of the eastern plain form a rather homogenous group; in sum, they look like S. Lorenzo: single-nave rectangular edifices built of reasonably regular courses of small limestone masonry, with windows few and small, especially few on the south side exposed to noonday heat; a simple arched door; a bell gable for one or two bells, the classic Italian campanile a vela; often decorated inside with votive frescoes; sometimes, especially on or near the Via Flaminia, the corners of the church are made of large blocks of that travertine stone that the Romans used so much, and occasionally we even find a Roman inscription or two.

Here we have rather less of that Roman stone than usual; despite a fairly careful search, I only saw two such blocks, strengthening the NW corner (photo below), and maybe, but I'm not really convinced, the lintel of the side door (photo). At any rate, S. Lorenzo is not situated right on the Flaminia, which ran about a kilometer west of here — and within a radius of say 3 km, my maps show at least eleven old churches, including three larger churches in Beroide, that are closer to the Roman road: they're the ones we can expect to involve more ancient spolia. I haven't been to a single one of them, by the way, despite having walked about 2000 km of Umbria so far: the casual visitor who sees Assisi and Spoleto and Orvieto in a week's stay shouldn't imagine they've exhausted the region. . . .

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the church of S. Lorenzo near Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]

NW corner: two blocks of Roman stone, a drain, and four recesses that look very much like they were once made to support the wooden beams of an adjacent structure.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Lorenzo near Azzano, Umbria (central Italy).]

A disencumbered view of the south wall.

Like many of the area's rural churches, S. Lorenzo is partly agglomerated into a sort of compound, which is why we have no photograph of the apse of the church. There isn't any: as we saw in the photo at the top of this page, a house wraps around the back and much of the N side of the church.

And like absolutely all these little churches, S. Lorenzo is normally closed. If it remains consecrated, however, canon law requires it to open for Mass once a year, which is usually on the titular saint's feast day: if you want to try seeing the interior — according to the TCI guide to Umbria, with paintings dated 1488 by Jacopo Zabolini (or Jacopo Zabolino), an obscure local artist — August 10 is the usual feast of St. Lawrence. Alternately, someone out there has the key; unfortunately, I can't say who for sure, but I'd start with the parish priest of Azzano.

If you're a historian rather than a potential visitor, one additional note: S. Lorenzo is recorded by the Umbrian historian Durastante Natalucci (Historia Universale dello stato temporale ed eclesiastico di Trevi, 1745, p213) as having belonged to the Olivetan monastery of S. Pietro in Bovara.

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Page updated: 15 Nov 15