Lesser Known Religious Sites in Italy
Italy equals History and Religion. Italy is also synonyms with Faith and Spirit. To people with religious bent of mind, Italy is a destination to find roots of Christianity and its way of life. Mostly every town, city or tiny village in Italy has its own heritage made up of religious and historical sites. Religious oriented tours represent an important phenomenon and attraction in Italy. That’s nothing to be surprised of, because today all over the world there are almost 40 million people spending 4 billion dollars visiting places of worship. They are driven by the wish to discover the roots of Christianity and to be moved by those holy places. This great business is particularly flourishing in Italy, where there are a lot of significant, beautiful and charming destinations and the Christian culture is deeply rooted.
One can find important religious sites in cities like Venezia, Padova, Torino, Firenze, Loreto, Assisi, Lanciano, Roma, Montecassino, Pompei and San Giovanni Rotondo. In this article we are going to focus on three lesser known but equally interesting religious sites: Loreto, Lanciano and Montecassino.
Loreto, in the province of Ancona, is a small town of 12,543 inhabitants and lies on the Apennines. Loreto boasts of a marvelous landscape that ends with the Adriatic Sea. Located in the Marche area, it is also close to Osimo a nice medieval village where Saint Giovanni from Copertino lived, and Ancona, harbor city, with ancient greek origin, so much so to be known as The Doric town. Loreto is mostly famous as the seat of the Basilica of the Holy House, a popular Catholic pilgrimage site. The basilica is a huge building richly adorned with the great Vanvitelli’s bell tower. But the true pilgrims ‘attraction is the Holy House, the place where, according to Christian legends, the Annunciation took place and where Jesus was born. According to the legend, The Holy House was carried there by the angels, but in reality was done by crusaders. That makes of Loreto a crucial religious destination. Furthermore this city is a gateway to other international religious destinations like: Lourdes, Czestochowa, Fatima and Nazareth.
Lanciano, which counts more than 35,000 inhabitants, lies in Abruzzo, a wonderful Italian region that offers great opportunity to enjoy its natural treasures like Gran Sasso Mountains or the National Park of Abruzzo and its pastoral tradition and medieval villages. Lanciano lies on the beautiful hillside of Maiella and is a few kilometers away from the seaside. Its strategic position has always favored it in trading and its prosperity. The importance of Lanciano as a religious destination is related to the Eucharistic Miracle, recognized by the Catholic Church, which has taken place there. As a matter of fact, in 700 A.D. a monk doubted about the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist during the Celebration. When he was pronouncing the Words of Consecration, the bread is said to have become flesh and the wine blood. Those relics are safeguarded in Saint Francesco’s Church. Their authenticity is supported by many examinations made by experts. Beside Saint Francesco’s church, Lanciano offers other important religious places to visit like Santa Maria del Ponte’s Cathedral or Santa Maria Maggiore. Lanciano is filled with remembrances of past religious historical characters and religious events, especially preceding the Holy Week in the Easter Period.
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 kilometers southeast of Rome. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery here which later became the seat of the Benedictine Order. The location of this place has always made it an object of strategic importance. In fact, it was sacked and destroyed a number of times, the last time by Allied armies during a battle in 1944. The Abbey that we can now see there was rebuilt thanks to Investments of the Italian government. The monastery is one of the few remaining territorial abbeys within the Catholic Church. In the huge Abbey is buried the body of Saint Benedict, and is often visited by the Popes. Being a spiritual place, this is a must in the Italian religious itinerary.
There is much more to see in Italy, as far as religious sites are concerned, other than most common and popular cities like Rome, Venice and Florence. Some of the other popular religious destinations in Italy, all worth paying a visit, include Pietralcina, Assisi and San Giovanni Rotondo.