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Ex-church of Santa Caterina Italiano.gif (234 byte) 

 

Fortress-like in its impassable situation on the slopes of the mountain behind Trevi, the Church of S. Caterina is reduced to not much more than a hut.

The site is very picturesque and the little clearing in front of the building gives onto an oustanding panoramic view. The church's most interesting element is the apsidal wall, entirely covered by a fresco measuring 3.00 by 2.70 meters: a highly dramatic representation of the Crucifixion, with life-size figures

The church was probably abandoned because it was somewhat hard to get to, and because two hundred meters from it there was the much larger church, with daily services, of the splendid convent of the Capuchins before the cemetery absorbed it.

Trevi, ex chiesa di S. Caterina
The "costa" and the church of S. Caterina (1992)

The people of Trevi, from very ancient times, have had a living devotion to St Catherine, attested by a number of painted works adorning both sacred and secular buildings in the town and its territory, and this little church, dedicated to the Alexandrian martyr, gave its name to the place, which from time immemorial has been known as the "costa di S.Caterina", St. Catherine's ridge. But old-timers remember S.Caterina also with reference to olive growing, since it was on her feast day, November 25th, that the harvest of the precious fruit would begin, after the people attended Mass in the little church, which is completely surrounded by olive groves. In the late 19th century the church of S.Caterina was almost completely demolished in order that its stone might be reused to build the east wing of the hospital; it was at that time that the church was reduced to its current condition. Guided though they were by the most practical and utiliarian criteria - nothing new under the sun! - the administrators of the time chose at least to spare the large fresco on the back wall. Today in fact there remain only that wall and a very small opening across from it, now bricked up.

In 1942 Don Aurelio Bonaca, the fondly remembered priest of Trevi, called attention to this church in a little publication in which he lamented the fact that this magnificent fresco adorned what by now was merely a hut used as a staging point by the women who picked olives. Fr. Bonaca's appeal was sedulously ignored by the authorities of the time because it was during the war,  and then by their successors since the war was over and the agenda was reconstruction.

In the 1970's the fresco was examined by Silvestro Nessi who pushed its dates back by a century to the early 1300's, and attributed it to the Master of S. Chiara di Montefalco (Spoletium n. 21, 1976), based on very evident similarities between the two paintings. But even then, busy with great works, no one took any interest. Nessi also reported the curious fact that in 1632 the fresco had been studied by the Capuchin Fr. Zaccaria Boverio, who from the habit of St. Francis depicted at the foot of the cross, had extracted information that helped him reconstruct the evolution of Franciscan dress over the centuries

The painting then received the attentions of the most eminent scholars and the competent public authorities.

In the summer of 2000 Vittorio Paris, the Trevi painter of the naive school, reported the information (further disseminated by the press) that the door had been forced open, probably by homeless people, who had driven nails into the painting to use them to hang their clothes.

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Translated By Bill Thayer ©2010

09Z


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