Here begins that part of the journey that historically, once left the Chienti valley, passed through the mountains to reach Loreto. Behind the noble fortifications that in ancient times controlled the forced passage of shepherds and pilgrims, you enter an environment rich in vegetation, which gives space to wonderful panoramic views. Once in Gelagna, the route continues on secondary roads to enter a harmonious scenario of hills and passages between cultivated fields. It then crosses Arnano and Morro until reaching Camerino. The hiking route is suitable for all skill levels and requires a good attitude to walk.
From the Late Middle Ages to the end of the 16th century, this road was traveled by a myriad of pilgrims on their way to the Sanctuary of Loreto attracted by the relic of the Holy House. A particularly suggestive stretch of the “straight road” between Rome and Loreto, defined by the sources as “the shortest and easiest”. Inserted in the international network of medieval pilgrimages, the route crosses places of historical and religious importance. In Serravalle di Chienti, of considerable value is the Basilica of S. Maria di Pistia, built in 1100 on the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Plestia. The plateau where the Basilica stands was a crucial point for those crossing the Apennines, a place of meetings and commercial exchanges, connected to transhumance and pilgrimage. The road then continued up to the Castle of Serravalle, then through the “Serrata valley” to the Ospizio dei Pellegrini and, crossing the Bavareto towers, climbed to Gelagna Alta.
1 – FRAZ. GELAGNA
After 2.8 km from the start, you reach Gelagna.
Strategic residential nucleus along the ancient Via Romano-Lauretana, Gelagna (today Gelagna Alta) has represented for centuries an important transit place for pilgrims, travelers and merchants. Here they could stop, finding adequate refreshment and abundant presence of water, with fountains and drinking troughs, among which the public fountain-washhouse in the center of the square remains tangible. Outside the town, the ruins of the old Post Office and the Church of San Biagio dedicated to the Patron Saint and renovated in 1970, whose origin is linked to the Lordship of the da Varano, should be noted. Furthermore, located in the center of the village, as a prelude to the final destination, the Church dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto, testimony of a profound Marian devotion. These places were characterized by the presence of water mills, of which an interesting testimony remains today in Gelagna Bassa.
2 – FRAZ. ARNANO
Continuing for 2.2 km you cross Arnano.
Located at the foot of Mount Igno, rich in excellent water that flows from various sources, the small village of Arnano experienced its most flourishing period in the late Middle Ages: its inhabitants had been dedicated since time immemorial to the production of terracotta tiles. But its notoriety is linked above all to the presence in the Church of San Cristoforo, of a remarkable pictorial heritage with the depiction of the Crucifixion and San Cristoforo, patron saint of pilgrims, of a Madonna della Misericordia and other figures of saints, by an author still unknown despite recent attribution attempts: critics have defined him as the Master of Arnano and placed him “among the best of the second period of the Camerte pictorial school” (Bittarelli 1976). Following, a suggestive detail of the pictorial complex.
3 – FRAZ. MORRO: pivot of travel and trade
After the next 2.7 km, the hamlet of Morro presents itself to the pilgrims.
The first card of Fonte Avellana, dated 975, mentions the locus qui dicitur Morru, in the Camerino committee. It is one of the most remote evidence of its existence, supported by the strategic location along the Spoleto-Camerino road axis, in Lombard hands since the 7th century and, subsequently, in the inter-regional connections of both a political-commercial and religious nature. Together with the finite Casale, in the middle of the 16h century it had sixty families and about four hundred people, confirming its intact functionality. Coming from Rome, to its right opens a particularly suggestive path, between wings of centuries-old oaks, which preserves the features of the ancient route, crossed for over a millennium by travelers, warriors, merchants and along which they are channeled, when leaving from the 14th century, thousands of pilgrims in transit between the “holy cities” of Rome and Loreto.
4 – PORTA SAN GIACOMO: gate to a permeable city
The penultimate 4.3 km take the pilgrim literally to the Camerino gate (Antica Porta San Giacomo, now Porta Malatesta). From here only one last kilometer, which crosses the whole town, is left before concluding the stage.
The ancient gate, from the 14th to the 17th century, allows the entry of a multitude of pilgrims heading to Loreto, whereas in more remote centuries it witnessed the passage, in the opposite direction, of those directed towards the Francigena, included in the international network of medieval pilgrimage . Nearby, the Convent of San Pietro di Muralto is nestled in the city walls. It is a stronghold of the Franciscan Observance, for which Carlo Crivelli painted an altarpiece in 1489 that is now dismembered and dispersed. From few years later is the majestic Fortress built by Cesare Borgia in 1503. Defined by medieval sources civitas maior, like Ancona, Ascoli, Fermo and Urbino, based on the testimony of the humanist Flavio Biondo, Camerino represented between then 13th and 15th centuries, the richest and most populous city of the Marchia, open to traffic and to relations, to pilgrims and merchants, to the direct students in its ancient Studium and to a large Jewish community, fundamental support for its thriving mercantile and manufacturing economy.
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