Photographer's Note

San Salvatore rock church - Vallerano (VT)

It is what remains today of a small Benedictine monastery dug out of the tuff, after the catastrophic detachment of a rocky ridge which, in 1888, split the cave environments in two.
It is located in a high cliff that runs alongside the Rio delle Cannucce about a kilometer, north-east, from the town of Vallerano. The title of the rock church and of the monastery is uncertain; the name Grotta del Salvatore, reported as the toponym of the locality, probably derives from the frescoes, the name Grotta di San Vittore also appears sporadically, which would link this monastery to a homonymous monastery on Monte Soratte. According to another hypothesis, recently recovered, this rocky nucleus should be identified with the monastery of San Salvatore de Coriliano, belonging to the Roman monastery of San Silvestro in Capite. In fact, the Roman monastery owned properties in the area as early as the mid-9th century, but the existence of a cenobium is attested only in a document from 1112. From the few surviving documents it appears that this cenobium, often involved in territorial disputes with communities Vallerano and Vasanello, is mentioned for the last time in 1299.
The church was probably built and decorated between the second half of the 9th century and the full 11th century.

The structure consisted of two levels: on the upper floor, a series of communicating rooms most likely served as cells for the monks; on the lower level, however, there are two large rooms always communicating and entirely decorated with paintings dating back to the early Middle Ages. Half of an elongated trapezoidal floor plan environment can still be visited. The back wall of the church of the room, with a slightly curvilinear pattern, stops abruptly after about two meters, there is the altar, on a rise carved into the rock, which is accessed by three steps, also carved out of the rock ; it is a simple block altar, with a quadrangular hole on the upper side, the storeroom of the relics. The wall above the altar is occupied by a fresco depicting the Communion of the Apostles, which reads the writing ANDREAS / VMILIS ABBAS; the central nucleus of the composition is the standing figure of Christ in the act of bringing a chalice to the lips of St. Peter, to the right of this group stands an altar covered with a rich embroidered cloth, and above it an half-figure angel with a tray in hand.
The north face, about 10 m long, has a curvilinear course in the East-West direction; two large niches open onto it. The first, at the height of the steps of the altar, has a round arch and flat bottom, with a smaller niche in the right soffit; at the bottom of the niche there is a red Latin cross painted on white plaster, enclosed by a red frame that follows the intrados line. The niche probably served as a support for the tools of the liturgical celebrations.
The second niche, much wider, has an arched external profile and trapezoidal planimetry. Along this wall there is a long theory of figures: the Virgin and Child are flanked by three holy martyrs Lucia, Agnese and Sofia, the first two on the left and the third on the right, now no longer legible, fan from crown to the Madonna and Child, followed three Benedictine saints Benedetto, Mauro and Placido. The three saints, each identified by an epigraph on the side of the figure, standing and facing three quarters towards the Virgin, are richly dressed (with diadem and earrings); the first two figures bear crowns in veiled hands, while the last in the row holds a small cross in the left hand, while in the right hand, veiled, it holds a ciborium. Immediately above the niche is a full-length Madonna and Child, inside a clypeus. As for the group of Benedictine saints, also identified by epigraphs alongside the figures, these are standing and perfectly frontal figures, which implies that they are votive paintings, unlike the previous representations. Here too there are some iconographic peculiarities worthy of note: in addition to the fact that here we find one of the first portraits of San Benedetto ever discovered, the figures of his disciples Mauro and Placido usually do not appear before the 11th century; moreover, Placido holds a white cross in his hands, which qualifies him as a martyr, a figure not attested before the XII century in written sources. The vault was completely occupied by a jeweled cross on a starry sky, in the center of which was a clypeus with the image of Christ Pantokrator half-length; on the four sides of the cross were smaller clipei, with the images of the four evangelists. Two fragments of the figure of Christ remain of this composition, part of the gilded garment and of an open book in which we read the inscription EST MIHI GRANTED LVCI TERREQVE POTESTAS (Mt 28, 18). A third fragment preserves part of the frame of the central clypeus and the background, as well as a large fragment of the clypeus in which the evangelist John was depicted.
Between this room and the next room, the wall has a curved shape, and is characterized by the presence of a semicircular niche. To the right of the room there is another niche, probably a sepulchral arcosolium.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Silvio Sorcini (Silvio1953) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 16822 W: 130 N: 34761] (192859)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2020-01-10
  • Categories: Architecture
  • Exposure: 30 seconds
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2020-01-13 0:59
Viewed: 224
Points: 22
  • None
Additional Photos by Silvio Sorcini (Silvio1953) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 16822 W: 130 N: 34761] (192859)
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