If you happen to be at a loose end in the city of Teramo or it begins raining or snowing and it’s a little too early yet for an elevenses caffeine fix, my suggestion is to take a visit to the Teramo Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta & San Bernardo. Not only is it warm (it has under-floor heating), but it’s positively Zen-like compared to the some of the fleshier marble clad church interiors that you can find on a trip to Italy.
Teramo’s Basillica most recent restoration finished in 2007 which took it back to an earlier simpler incarnation, its focus on highlighting its architecture and stonework. It’s this focus on simplicity of structure that in turn has a beautifully calming effect. You can soar upwards with its columns rather than be bombarded with imagery that can end up keeping your feet on the ground. For this fact alone it has become one my favourite Cathedrals across the 4 provinces of Abruzzo, obviously I can’t say Italy because obviously the newly cleaned Duomo di Milano wins that hand down but for a provincial cathedral and the serenity it manages to imbue it’s really worth a visit.
The cathedral itself is situated in the heart of Teramo’s little historic centre. Started in the C12th, the cathedral has had many additions over the ages, starting life Romanesque in style, its original build borrowed stone that was polished and inset from the remains of a nearby Roman theatre. There are spectacular soaring pointed vaulted Gothic arches, a traditional Abruzzo vaulted ceiling, part of which was restored in the early C20th taking the cathedral back to its medieval roots. At this point they inserted a wooden ceiling which was painted in the traditional Romanesque style with abstract geometric patterns woven with Roman classic designs, it’s very effective with quite a vibrant palate. There is a sprinkling of the baroque too but its various art styles manage to sit well together keeping its tone harmonious.
Part of the floor has been opened up with inset glass tiles so you can view the crypt of Saint Bernardo who was responsible for building the wonderful Abruzzo Abbey – San Giovanni in Venere, he’s now interned elsewhere in the cathedral, in the chapel vault of St Anna. His feast day incidentally is the 19th December so a good Red Letter Day for your diary to try and visit Teramo.
Don’t miss if you are a...
Relief sculpture lover
The Eye of God – The relief modern sculpture by Silvio Mastrodascio inset into the cathedral’s front facade & the relief work inset in the columns which is unobtrusive but works so well
Romanesque Gothic Portal lover
The mouldings on the portal – fantastic
Roman Archaeology lover
The original Roman lions that support the pulpit
Anyone that loves a fine bit of bling
Check out the delicacy of the work on the C15th silver antepedium which was crafted by Nicola da Guardiagrele, an acclaimed Abruzzese goldsmith
Be prepared that if you get your camera out you can be assured of one local resident coming up talking about the beauty of the cathedral, it’s lovely and quite charming there is such local pride in this building.
It’s best to visit 10-12 on weekdays if you can so that you don’t feel that you are intruding on Mass.