It has been a few days since I returned from almost a month spent in Italy, time enough to begin sorting through some photos from my trip. I don’t usually have themes to my photos or trips, but I’ve found a few photos of outdoor shrines, frescos and bits of sculpture that I’ve grouped together. Many offer variations on the Biblical story of the Annunciation, a theme that fascinates me. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s due to the different ways of depicting the Angel Gabriel as he tells Mary the surprising news of what’s about to happen to her.
One thing I have learned from my blogging friend Annie is to keep an eye out for shrines when I travel. They pop up all over the place, especially when you begin to watch for them. Some can be very beautiful, or touching; some are just plain odd. But they’re always interesting!
These first two photos were taken at different spots in the northern Umbrian city of Gubbio, which appears very austere but very beautiful for all that. Also, very steep (which goes for most Umbrian hill towns.) Both shrines simply show the Madonna and the Christ child.
These next two photos are from the small town of Visso, where we stopped for lunch on a day trip from Letizia’s agriturismo through the mountains to the city of Norcia, home of all things involving wild boar and truffles. But first, Visso, which lies at the base of the Sibillini National Park and is on the road to the magnificent Piano Grande, a stunning high plain ringed by mountains and topped with the village of Castelluccio.
One photo is of a small shrine along a side street; the second is a fresco of the Annunciation painted above the entrance to Visso’s Collegiata di Santa Maria, built in 1256.
The next photo is from Norcia, showing carved figures of the Madonna and Child AND the Annunciation. There are above the entrance into the church of San Benedetto , or St. Benedict, which sits on Norcia’s main square, the Piazza San Benedetto.
Norcia’s roots date back many hundred years before Christ, with Roman ruins from about the 1st century. Besides its fabulous food products, Norcia is best know as the birthplace of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine monastic system, and his twin sister St. Scholastica, born here in 480.
I stopped one day for lunch in the tiny town of Trevi, which climbs up the side of a mountain overlooking Foligno and Bevagna. I found a curious, sort of plastic-looking street shrine of the Madonna, as well as an interesting fresco of the Annunciation over the door of a house.
I returned to the city of Spoleto on a Sunday morning, determined to re-visit the spectacular Duomo there, one of the most beautiful cathedrals that I know of; and also to see the monumental aqueduct, the Ponte delle Torri which spans a deep gorge (and the Via Flaminia) to connect Spoleto and Monteluco.
This bridge was built in the 12th century and was defended by towers (which explains the name, delle torri.) I had stayed in Spoleto a few years ago, but at that time the bridge was closed for repairs. I’ve been determined ever since then, to return.
On the bridge itself I found a small shrine to the Madonna enclosed by an iron grid.
And finally, for a change of pace, a street fresco of Saint Francis of Assisi in the town of Bevagna, where I was able to take part in the town’s remarkable festival of its medieval roots, the Mercato delle Gaite.