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Some shrines, some frescos, some Annunciations, many memories.....

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Comments (15)

Mindy:

Goodness gracious, you're home already? time flew by faster than the fluttering of angel wings!!

I loved your entries and would love to travel solo for a month too. Would you please call my boss? *wink*

The Spoleto bridge is on my "bucket list"....it has been for years since I saw photos on Slowphotos. One day I will get there!!

I can't wait to read about your experience at the textile place (the name escapes me right now... Bolzetti)?? I want to see your creation and also please, photos of what you bought!!

Sandra, it is always a pleasure to read your blog (although I don't often post replies).

Mindy

These are a great selection of photos on a theme. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading more about your trip .. and about your participation in the festival! m

sandrac:

Hi Mindy, I appreciate hearing from you! It is hard to believe that I'm back already. I saved up almost all my vacation time and took it in a big lump. (I'll probably regret that decision this fall when you're off in Venice having wonderful GTGs!)

The ponte, and Spoleto in general, are really worth a visit, I hope that you make it eventually. On both of my visits to Spoleto, there has been a lot of restoration work going on, which can kill some of the charm of the city. But if you hold off a few more years, it will likely all be completed when you visit!

My time in the Brozzetti textile workshop was really interesting, and I plan to post a lot more about it. I'll also take a photo of my sad little piece of weaving. It doesn't look great, but working on it certainly gave me a taste of how challenging weaving is, and a real appreciation of the textiles I've bought from Brozzetti over the years!

Hi menehune, I'll definitely have more to say about the Gaite festival in Bevagna. It was quite a happening, I can't believe the enormous effort such a small town puts out to celebrate its medieval roots. The intricate workshops, the taverns with historic food, the costumes -- really remarkable!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, welcome home. I hope that your transition back is going smoothly for you. Annie's wonderful blog on the Churches and beautiful shrines in Venice also inspires and influences what I look for while traveling. This is a wonderful photo collection of the beautiful shrines and frescos you saw during your trip. The one with the pink flowers is really gorgeous.

Thanks so much for sharing and I'm looking forward to reading about and seeing more photos of your trip.

sandrac:

Hi Kathy, thanks! Fortunately, things have been quiet in the office and at my gym, so it has been fairly easy to slip right back into my routines. I do miss Italy, though.

I know that you, too, have become more shrine-conscious when you travel! Thanks for your kind words on my photos -- I wish they were better! It's a shame, but I missed many shrines (some cool ones at the sides of roads where it was impossible to stop for a photo.)

But I do have lots of new material for the blog, which is great. Maybe we need to do an August madness blog-o-thon!

Welcome home! Boy that month just flew by; I'm actually surprised that you're home already.

Of course, I LOVE your photos! I never get tired of looking at shrines - I even find the plastic semi-tacky ones charming. I really love that relief you found on the Spoleto bridge. Something very special about that Madonna - I like her hand gestures.

You found some lovely Annunciations too (I remember you saying that you collect them). Anyway, glad you're home safely and can't wait to read more about it!

sandrac:

Thanks, Annie -- the time really DID fly by! And I did see many Annunciations, which always delight me.

The Madonna on the Spoleto bridge was interesting, I'm not sure why she was hhidden behind a kind of iron grate. For protection, I suppose. It's unusual to see her without the Christ child. I should do some research to see if I can find out what the letters around her head stand for, and why she is solo.

Zerlina:

The Annunciation is one of my favorite subjects as well. The ones that have most stayed in my mind are the two very different versions of Mary (preliminary sketch and final fresco) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti at Montesiepi. There are images and explanations of them here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/2913375/The-Hands-of-Mary-States-of-Mind-in-the-Annunciate

M.P.S.V.? Maria [?] Santissima Vergine? I'm totally lost on the P. Pia? If you find out what the letters mean and why Mary is alone, I do hope you'll tell us.

sandrac:

Thanks, Zerlina, for that link -- what an interesting topic. I haven't finished the article yet, but I'm intrigued by the idea of Mary's hands expressing different emotions, particularly perturbation(which she certainly must have felt!) It certainly doesn't appear as often as other emotions (such as calm acceptance) which I imagine Church officials would have found more suitable.

A belated welcome home. These are wonderful insights to the area. Just beautiful.

sandrac:

Hi Marta, thanks! I wish I could say that it's good to be back.....but I miss Italy! Perhaps that will motivate me to do more blogging about my experiences.

Anne:

Belated welcome home from me too! What a marvellous trip you've had from the sounds of it. Love the photos, especially the Annunciation ones. I've been enthralled by that subject since discovering its feast day falls on my birthday...which discovery may well have sowed the seeds for my current discernment to ministry since it got me thinking about how God calls each of us and about being brave enough to answer such a call. But I digress! Can't wait to see more of your lovely photos, and read more about your travels!

sandrac:

Hi Anne! How interesting, I hadn't realized that your birthday is the same day as the feast day of the Annunciation. And that this had such significance for you! I hope your discernment process is going well, you must be almost six months into it by now?

Belated (blog) welcome home!! The bridge in Spoleto is the memory that stands out the most for me of my daytrip there back in 2000 - wow! 10 years ago! So glad it was finally open. Isn't it a cool bridge? Love all your shrine and fresco photos.

Anne:

Sandra, it's been about six months since I said it out loud, but only four months into the formal discernment period.

A couple years ago, my friend Mark (actually he's my friend Valerie's husband and an Anglican priest) and I were talking and somehow the Annunciation came up. He said the feast day was March 25, and I said Ah, a date of great significance (it being my birthday, of course!) While neither of us are literalists, we both agree there is much to be learned from sacred story. And I got thinking about how this story holds up a message of answering God's call, no matter how immense a task one is called to do.

A few months later, when I was on my solo journey back in Oct/08 (was it really so long ago??), I saw Annunciation paintings and images everywhere. And began to think about what God might be calling me to do, and would I be brave enough to answer? And now, here I am on my journey to ministry! It won't be easy, not the studying or the lifestyle, but my heart tells me I have to answer this call.

(I have a favourite hymn in my head now:
"Here I am, Lord,
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night...
I will go, Lord,
If you lead me,
I will hold your people in my heart."

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