Places of silence | Itinerario
During the 5th century AC the churches were urban communities and the Christian religion was represented as a town phenomenon that found it difficult to take hold in rural areas, where cults of pagan character, which were almost always devoted to the sacredness of nature, were massive. Spreading Christianity in those areas were mostly monks, Christians who preferred to embark on a mundane escape, through complete solitude, by creating a comunity that modelled itself on Jesus and his disciples. On the basis of some Epistles signed by Pope Gregory Magno (540 Rome ca – 604), the territory that included Pesaro, Ancona, Fermo and Ascoli Piceno, welcomed a fairly high number of monasteries, which grew around the 7th century, when the order of Benedictines began to establish itself. The monks, over a span of time between the 6th and 7th centuries, began to distribute their abbeys along the area’s two major road-networks, the Flaminia to the North and the Salaria to the South, and deciding to settle near the coastal strip only at a later time. Those who were part of that monastic order observed the rule that St. Benedict (Norcia, ca. 480 – Montecassino, 549) put in place in 540, which suggested coenoby, a comunity life which had for its Foundation work, prayer and divine readings.
The life of Benedictine monks took place within the Abbey, which covered an area that enjoyed political, economic and spiritual autonomy subordinated only to the Holy See and exceptionally to the Empire. Many Benedictine abbeys of the Fermo territroy have been lost in time, subjected to the inexorable human occurrences. In some cases all that remains are only the ruins that refer to ancient splendours of those monastic aggregations of which, the most spectacular examples are to be found along the side-streets of the via Salaria. Many other abbeys, however, have survived to tell how in the past they were not only important religious nuclei, but also centers of cultural transmission where manuscripts were copied and decorated, as well as commissioning works of considerable artistic importance. These monasteries are testimony of the gradual change of architectural tastes under the influence of time and man. From the almost impenetrable, closed corolla, the abbeys were slowly transformed into flowers open to life and social culture and sometimes the signs of this change can be still seen, despite that the original structures were often converted into parish churches.
With the advent of the 13th century, the Church was in a State of such disorder and corruption that, only by returning to its origins and to the ideals of poverty preached by Jesus, was it possible to heal. It was was St. Francis (Assisi, 1181 – 1226 therein) who understood, that only a true "jester of God" managed to convey to people those values then overshadowed by power and corruption. With him the figure of the friar appeared completely different to that of the monarch, who now seemed to hold an official laical position. The mendicant order was established only after persistent pressure from the Church. St. Francis in fact did not wish to establish a new order, just as he didn't want to build convents. According to various testimonies "the poor man of Assisi" actually invited members of the confraternity of penitents to live in humble shelters of earth and straw, he urged them to obtain food through work and to preach the word of God among the people, in abandoned churches or loaned provisionally by the ecclesiastical authorities. Only after his death did the interminable flourishing of convents of the Friars Minor and the Poor Clares begin. Retaining custody by Fermo was especially relevant to the diffusion of religious buildings throughout the land that had inspired the "Fioretti of San Francesco" and which, from Fermo, passes through Mogliano, Massa Fermana, Falerone, Montegiorgio up to Penna San Giovanni.
The different hermitical congregations, which followed the rule of St. Augustine, gathered together in March 1256 by the will of Pope Alexander IV in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, in order to unify the various communities under one religious family. To confirm the creation of the order of St. Augustine was the Licet Ecclesiae Catholicae Bull promulgated on April 9, 1256. The brother members followed the example of the Holy Bishop of Ippona who had always reserved a considerable interest in knowledge and culture. Therefore from the first draft of the Constitution of the order (1290) studying was identified as a means to spread the knowledge of the Gospel and so to reach the salvation of their souls. In fact, along with various that were built in the Augustinian Province of Picena between the 14th and 15th centuries, were several Augustinian theological schools, and equally conspicuous the pictorial and architectural works commissioned by members of the Order. A substantial part of that wide-ranging artistic production has been lost over time, but it is still possible to visit convents and monumental churches founded by the Augustinians along that territory, which from Amandola passes through Fermo, Monte Giorgio to Sant'Elpidio a Mare.
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