Remarkable Romanesque

It’s well worth taking a look at Coreglia Antelminelli’s oldest church. It’s the first one you come across when entering this hilltop town, one of the group consisting of “I più bei borghi d’Italia” (the most beautiful towns/villages in Italy).

San Martino dates back to the ninth century but was expanded during the following two centuries thus creating its present asymmetric appearance.

The church consists of a nave with two aisles and an apse.

The oldest part is the fine apse, typical of the international Romanesque style with its round arches, and best appreciated from the outside:

The fine columns separating the nave from the aisle have quite dainty capitals.

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The façade was restored during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries while the campanile, replacing a thirteenth century original, was only erected between 1847 and 1856.

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For me the most attractive feature of the church is the delightful sixteenth century fresco decorating the apse. I particularly enjoy the angelic host playing a variety of mainly plucked and bowed musical instruments including baroque guitar, portative organ and viola da gamba.

The church is sometimes the venue for interesting events and concerts. We remember some time ago attending a concert there which was introduced by that doyen of presenters, Debora Pioli.

I always feel that the Romanesque style is the purest manifestation of western European religious architecture. It’s the last truly international style to have permeated Europe. The gothic which succeeded it for example, never quite had a genuinely convincing foothold in Italy except for a few examples such as Milan cathedral.

Romanesque religious buildings proliferate in Italy and there’s brilliant facebook page on them at https://www.facebook.com/PieviRomanicheDellaToscanaEOltre which lists and constantly updates that list.

See how many Romanesque buildings you can find in our part of the world. Here are a few I’ve photographed over the years. How many can you recognize?

Of course, several of these buildings have been modified, especially during the eighteenth century, by heightening the nave, by enlarging windows and by  ‘baroquizing’ the interior. But when one finds an untouched Romanesque church it’s pure pleasure. Here’s one of my favourites: San Martino in Greppo above the main road to Lucca between Diecimo and Valdottavo:

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