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Church of San Giovanni in Apollo called a Pollo - Bassano Romano (VT)
The church of San Giovanni in Apollo called a Pollo is the main element of the homonymous rock nucleus which is located in the Rovignola ditch between Sutri and Bassano Romano. The complex, consisting of a series of rooms excavated on the vertical side of a tufaceous hill, is now completely detached from the road layout, takes place on the front of a hill, along the valley, hinged on the central element, the church. The origin of the name of this ancient church, now reduced to a warehouse for agricultural tools, is controversial, for some it represents yet another graft between the pagan cult, for the god Apollo and the Christian one. More likely it derives from a deformation of the name Paolo, in all likelihood the church was precisely named after Saints John and Paul.

On the top of the Piazzano hill, the remains of a paved road and a Roman rustic villa have been identified. Just below is a tomb, probably of Etruscan origin but reused in Roman times with the creation of niches to contain the jars with the incinerated remains.
The settlement occupies part of the southern slope of the Piazzano hill, it develops along an artificially unleaded wall oriented in an east-west direction along the Fosso della Rovignola. Numerous arcosoli are visible, arranged irregularly on several orders, preserving the closing door and surmounted by tympanum carvings. Some have traces of ocher painted plaster in the inner lunette. There are also five small rooms dug into the tuff of different shapes and sizes along the tufa wall, whose function remains difficult to define, perhaps originally of the chamber tombs.
These are probably the first environments you meet, already used as animal shelters. These rooms are in turn dominated by large niches, perhaps arcosoli.
Then you meet an enigmatic environment in the tunnel, which proceeds slightly uphill for about forty meters, then stops for a substantial burial. In its first section, the section is trilobed, an evident trace of enlargement in a second phase; this section, which has high platforms on the sides, ends with a modern wall that partially blocks access to the second section of the gallery.
The entrance to the corridor is monumentalized by a very eroded semi-column carved into the tuff and a paving with tuff blocks in the small cut that precedes the actual entrance.
To the left of the gallery there is a small room with a quadrangular plan, with a deep niche on the right wall and a fireplace on the left wall.
Then there is a sort of low niche with a quadrangular plan 6.20 m long, currently used as a fountain.
The next room is a square floor plan room, with a small tunnel in one corner, dug to capture a small spring; a channel dug into the tuff runs halfway up the walls, ending with a hole communicating with the fountain; on the floor you can see the traces of other shallow channels, the function of which is not understood.
Then there are two other arcosoles, arranged one above the other.
Just after is the small church.
The unadorned facade has only a door with a large window above it.
Two oblique incisions in the rock above the roof lead to the hypothesis of an ancient roof higher than the current one. The church is a mixed construction partly with a rectangular plan in gabled masonry with a wooden support in the center, of relatively recent construction; the oldest part is carefully dug out of the tuff and enriched by several niches with arcosoli on the walls.
The apse wall preserves a fresco, very compromised and difficult to date, depicting Christ blessing, on the left the saints Peter and Paul, on the right the saints martyrs John and Paul. The pictorial panel, which measures about two meters in width and one and a half in height, is composed of five frontal figures aligned: the Christ in the center and two pairs of saints, of much smaller dimensions, on the sides. The representation is framed by a red band that runs all around the rectangle, a sign that the painting was conceived as an isolated image and was not part of a pictorial cycle. The couple on the left is identifiable thanks to the remains of the onomastic inscriptions that run on the tract of the frame below, but also from the peculiar somatic features of the faces that partly survive: they are the apostles Peter and Paul dressed in a white tunic and a pallium respectively pink and green. One could read a part of the inscription painted on the cartouche between the two apostles: FVERIM SOCII, today it is completely lost. Until recently, inside the section of lawn between the two apostles, one could read a dedication from the client, now almost entirely lost: EGO P (RES) B (YTER) G (RE) G (ORIVS) HOC OPVS PING (ERE) FEC [I]. The title of presbyter leads us to believe it probable that the rupestrian environment, at least at the time of the pictorial intervention, performed the function of a rural oratory rather than a coenobitic settlement unit as proposed in the past. The couple on the right is made up of two saints dressed in military clothing, with a richly decorated short robe and a chlamys covering the left shoulder. The two, almost symmetrical, in turn hold a scroll with an inscription that has been read: ISTI DVE OLIVAE ET DVE CANDELABRA LVCENT [IA SVNT]. The expression is contained in a passage from the Apocalypse (11.4) which alludes to the vision of the two witnesses before the opening of the seventh seal. The same phrase is taken up in a hymn that Floro da Lione dedicates to Saints John and Paul. The two characters that make up the couple on the right are therefore identifiable with the martyrs John and Paul, soldiers of the Roman Empire. The stylistic similarities with the frescoes of the Basilica of Sant’Anastasio in Castel Sant’Elia, lead to the fresco being dated between the end of the 11th century and the first decades of the following.
Just to the left of the church there are two arcosoles side by side.
At the edge of the settlement, in the final section of the wall, there is an isolated oblong niche, probably a burial niche.
SEE ALSO THE WS

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Silvio Sorcini (Silvio1953) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 18013 W: 130 N: 37949] (205719)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2020-11-10
  • Exposure: 30 seconds
  • Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
  • Date Submitted: 2020-11-13 0:49
Viewed: 0
Points: 32
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Additional Photos by Silvio Sorcini (Silvio1953) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 18013 W: 130 N: 37949] (205719)
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