On Tuesday the 5th of November, the company “ Belle Arti”inagurates its itinerary through beauty and everything that is full of expression. This will enable us to dive into the imagination and intentions of its authors by means of an interdisciplinary approach as much as possible. Through beauty and style,also intended as informative and historical sources, this company aims to appeal to the interest of its readers and visitors. For this reason, our purpose will be to introduce and increase the value of those artists which are unjustly considered second tier .
Those artists that are still not well known, either because of oblivion, lack of interest or disinformation about them. It would be an itinerary explorative as much as provocative , bacause even these minor realities of our Peninsula have from time immemorial supplied information, ideas,energy and mastery to improve, sharpen and testify the existing values, also through an overview towards future. Therefore, art is not only an end to itself but consists of a multilingual and multifunctional approach. But now let’s start our work concentrating our attention first of all to the art realized and found nearby of Monti Sibillini, a territory that morphologically can be defined tough and rugged, while also containing pleasure, mystery and a broad spectrum of colors. But what do we intend for art? What’s the point? According to our agenda, art represents human creativity that is intended for the good will of portraying something through its historical and cultural context. So this is our manifesto, but we can also try to fraternize creating an extended community. As for me , since I’m a newer member of this company , the task of opening this page was assigned to me. Our first trip led us to discover a church, known as “Chiesa della Madonna Bianca” ( The Church of The White Virgin Mary). This church is hidden between the little town of Preci , on the borderline between Umbria and Marche , and the very striking town of Norcia, immersed deep in the Castorian Valley, where is the city of Campi is found that we consider hereinafter our itinerary). This church, also named Santa Maria dell’Annunziata, on the frontal side presents a cloister of the Renaissance, with five arches and six little columns. On the left side of the first arch we can see with great solemnity a Lateran coat of arms, while outside on the external wall we can admire a beautiful piece of fresco, that was attributed to the Sparapane’s family. Inside of this church , in addition to the paintings of minor local painters (that were often susceptible to sacks during the centuries, because of lack of care about archeological sites), there are several valuable frescos with an iconographic system that reminds us of the classic historiography of the Roman Church. This church is divided into two naves and it is made up of a roof with triangular scaffolding , supported by four columns. It’s also supported by three beams that shape an isosceles triangle. But let’s talk about another important question that is : Who were the Sparapane? According to different researches about Monti Sibillini, made by some Italian and foreign academics , the workshop of Sparapane was a prosperous and original studio producing artistic products. This place was above all devoted to sheep farming, butchery, lumber and stone manifacturing. Thanks to the brillance of Sparapane that were surrounded by several important clients , this place experienced the art of devotion. Although with a little dose of sceptisism , their main ouvres represented the sacred cows of Gospel and its preachers. Cordella said about art of Sparapane: “ It is their concrete and vernacular way to conceiveing scenes and subjects; the skinny machinery, the gramar of devotional functionality , the dryness of composition. The right side of the church conserves frescos with scenes of life of the Virgin Mary and the Saints Rocco and Sebastian. Even these frescos are credited with the Sparapane, which have been present at many places such as the Pieve di Fematre and the Church of Saviour in Campi. But I have one doubt about this award, that I’m going to try explaining up ahead. In fact, I believe this Church was built, not between 1500 and 1600, but in my opionion, closer to the year 1300. But what mainly captures our attention about this fascinating church, sunk in green lush between Preci and Norcia, is the statue of the White Virgin Mary. On her head there is a white dove with a sloping beak that symbolizes protection and devotion. In the field of Christian symbolism, this could represent the encounter between the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus. The latter is located inside of a niche with two little painted doors that represent two angels when the little doors are open, while the apostles Peter and Paul when are closed .The statue of the Virgin Mary is composed from an extraordinary white stone , a lot alike to marble, typical to the lowest part of Monti Sibillini. It gives off a wonderful light, which provides a striking contrast with the lack of light inside the Church. This work of art reminds us the school of the Florentine Sculptors and in particular, it is credited to Francesco Di Simone Ferrucci. Ferrucci proposes again several times the theme of the Virgin Mary with The Baby in stone with arabesque and floral reliefs and with the little palm with seeded leaves. Generally Ferrucci was used to represent the Virgin Mary within tondo. We must specify that this lapidary white stone is not only a prerogative of Tuscany and Puglie, but also of the place of Valnerina or nearby Marche at the villages of Visso and Campi di Ussita. The places are covered with excellent white stones very similar to marble. Since there aren’t local clients attributed to Ferrucci and there aren’t statements of his transit , I personally believe that it isn’t because the Virgin Mary of Ancarano is overloaded by not nearly symbolism. But let’s move on from the White Virgin Mary and let’s concentrate on the right side of the Church, where there is another entrance that is very singular and striking. In fact, inside of it there are some emblems of Templars , such as for example the cross that we can see on cloaks of the Knight Templars, whose maxim was: “ Non nobis domine , non bois, sed nomini Tuo ad Gloriam “. Because the Order of Templars was officially born in the year 1100 and dissolved in 1314, for this reason we have inevitably to ask question about the foundation of the Church of The White Virgin Mary. When it was built? First of all, it is clear that this church was born at the same time of the end of Templarism during the period of Philip the Handsome , not in the year 1500 but between the end of 1200 and at the beginning of 1300. But is there possibly a link between the white of the Virgin Mary and the white cloaks of the Knight Templars? And also what could be changed, if originally the main entrance of church was that of today? In fact, the entrance of today is characterisez by the emblems of the Papal Rome , while the lateral entrance shows one of the pages of the history of Sibillini, that reminds us of Saint Bernardo of Chiaravalle and of Templars. But for the moment there aren’t answers to these questions, because there aren’t self-assured statements of the road that connected the Templars from the Tyrrenian to the Adriatic sea. There aren’t self-assured statements that prove that the way of Ancarano and therefore for Norcia( famous papal feud) was the destination of reaching the road Salaria and consequently ports of the Holy Land. In substance Templarism could be a typically local phenomenon and of its pure emulative spirit. But I think that it’s a very hazardous thesis. However, our research does not stop here because it’s important and necessary to contextualize the White Church and its frescos in addition to other events or local realities, such as for example Fremate, the Church of the Saviour in Campi and the different Romaniesque and Gothic Churches of San Ginesio.
Rome, 6 november 2013
Translated by Nicoletta Nachira