La Valle dell'Elce, la magia dell’acqua e della roccia
Una suggestiva escursione con un pizzico di avventura nella selvaggia Valle dell'Elce, dove il lavoro paziente e incessante dell'acqua ha…
A fortified castle, fascinating religious buildings, and an important museum of natural history: the small town of GAGLIOLE holds many surprises for its visitors.
This charming village is located between the valley of the River Potenza and the chain of the Marche’s Pre-Apennines, in a natural environment shaped for centuries by humans whol left evident traces everywhere.
The village was part of the Duchy ruled by the Da Varano family who, immediately after 1274, built a castle in order to protect their territory. The fortress’ fortified tower, with its imposing pentagonal shape, was surrounded by walls and build using limestone and sandstone curtain walls.
Right next to the entrance to the ancient castle, the small Church of St. Joseph (Chiesa di San Giuseppe) leans against the inner side of the fortified walls, guarding a beautiful 16th-century wooden crucifix and some frescoes. A priceless gem in the village is the late 15th century “Tabernacolo del Cerqueto”, by Lorenzo di Alessandro. The so-called “edicola”, currently kept in the Church of St. Joseph, comes from a paint or roadside tabernacle near the district of Cerqueto.
Instead, The Church of St. Michael the Archangel (Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo) still preserves the original structure of the portal from the 14th century, with its terracotta decorations. In the Church’s interior, renovated in the 18th century following the neoclassical style, we can admire two side altars, made of local stone of the 18th century.
On the way to San Severino Marche, going up a gravel road, one can reach theHermitage of the Madonna of the Bushlands (Eremo della Madonna delle Macchie), a complex consisting of a four-sided portico overlooked by some monastic buildings and two churches. The oldest of the two is a Gothic building with pointed portals and cross vaults, featuring various frescoes from the 14th century attributed to painter Diotallevi di Angeluccio. Other paintings, now partly detached and preserved in the Museo Diocesano di Camerino (Diocesan Museum of Camerino), date back to the 15th century and are attributed to an anonymous artist called Maestro delle Macchie (Master of the Bushlands). On the other hand, in the second church the apse preserves a large Signorelli-style “Assunzione” (the Annunciation), dating back to the period between the 15th and 16th century.
Among other buildings of great religious relevance, we should mention the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieve (Church of St. Mary of the Pieve), called Pieve di San Zenone in ancient times. It is a building made almost entirely of sandstone blocks, and it houses a 16th century fresco named “Madonna con Bambino” (Madonna with the Child). Currently, it houses the original table of the venerated Madonna delle Macchie (Madonna of the Bushlands).
Then, the Church of St. Lawrence in Torreto (Chiesa di San Lorenzo a Torreto) houses a beautiful wooden tabernacle dating to the late 16th century, above the main altar.
Gagliole is located within the Regional Nature Reserve of Mt. San Vicino and Mt. Canfaito (Riserva Naturale Regionale del Monte San Vicino e del Monte Canfaito). The CEA – Centre for Environmental Education (Centro di Educazione Ambientale Valle dei Grilli e dell’Elce), has its headquarters in the town and promotes the knowledge and use of the territory’s natural resources. The Natural History Museum (Museo di Storia Naturale) is also relevant. Founded by “Fondazione Oppelide”, it is located inside a 14th-century palace opposite the Rocca G. Varano. The museum displays numerous fossils and minerals: mesosaurus, an ichthyosaur, dinosaur eggs, amber-preserved insects, ammonites, ferns and Carboniferous leaves. This collection of findings provides a complete view of the evolution of life on Earth: the exhibition follows a chronological itinerary that, starting from the Archeozoic era, crosses all the subsequent eras and sub-periods, up to today.
Among the exhibited finds, the local ones have great scientific importance, allowing visitors to observe and study the territory in which the museum is located, as they provide the tools for understanding the influence of the surrounding environment on human settlements, as well as on their economy and cultural development.
A hike in the Elce Valley allows visitors to see a part of nature that is barely polluted by the presence of man, taking the easy-to-follow nature trails that partly replicate the secular Franciscan path that linked Assisi to Loreto.
Thanks to Carta dei Sentieri e delle Escursioni of the Riserva Naturale Regionale del Monte San Vicino e del Monte Canfaito (a Map of the Trails and Excursions of the Regional Nature Reserve of Mt. San Vicino and Mt. Canfaito), you will get to know an incredible area that will surprise and even guide you through the paths that characterise it, it is suitable for families and also experienced hikers.
Let’s get going! What is the destination? The knowledge of the evolution of life on Earth! All ages and periods are represented in this breathtaking exhibition space.
It’s an unmissable jewel, a work by Lorenzo di Alessandro made at the end of the 15th century. Today the shrine is preserved at the Church of St. Giuseppe in Gagliole representing the Madonna in trono con Bambino dormiente (Our Lady on throne with Sleepy Child).
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