Passions & Places

Santa Maria della Rocca

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Rocca - Offida

The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca is perched on a hill in the outskirts of the town.
It stands imposing and majestic in its romanic-gothic style. 

It can be accessed through a rising staircase. From the hill, that was once site for a Longobardian castle, it is possible to see all the countryside around Offida. In 1039 the castle and the small annexed church were donated to the Abbey of Farfa by a noble man from Offida, Longino D’Azzona that was of French or German origins.

As the epigraph on the church wall states, the castle was demolished in order to enlarge the ancient church in 1330. It was attached to a bigger building. 

This can be seen from the side passages that run along the crypt. They were created by the spare space between the ancient walls and the new ones.

The church outside is in bricks and travertine buttresses that lighten the apse. The quadrangular side tower bell that ends in an octagonal cusp was rebuilt smaller than it was after the damages by the 1943 earthquake.

The church is characterized by a Romanic-Gothic three-navy crypt whose access is through a travertine door dating back to the XIV century.
The main apse is decorated with frescoed dating back to the Fourteenth century. 

Some of them are by Maestro Ugolino di Vanne from Milan that is thought been a disciple of Andrea da Bologna.
The 'Vergine con il Figlio e S.Antonio abate’ depiction is one of his works and it dates back to 1423. 

It is interesting also to note the works by Maestro di Offida (sec. XIV-XV) in the crypt. Two of the most famous paintings are "Madonna con Bambino e due angeli» and “Sposalizio mistico di Santa Caterina”.

Some of the Higher Chiesa frescoes are also attributed to the artist from Offida. Those are “Sepoltura di Gesù” andCrocifissione”. The former is on the right side of the church, the latter in the ambo, that can be accessed through a staircase cut in the wall. 

The building of the upper part that develops on a Latin cross plant and single navy was concluded in XVI century. 

Historians maintain that the works were started in order to use the inferior crypt to bury the dead. They had in fact increased in number after the plague in 1511. 

The two storeys were independent from each other once, nowadays there is an access to the higher church through a winding staircase.
An outside staircase in bricks also leads to the higher church.

The single navy is lighted by two oblongs windows in the apse. The walls are austere and are not decorated. The half dome covering the apse is decorated with a well preserved depiction of the "Seven Prophets, Eight Holy Virgins, Ten singing Angels”

At the right end of the church there is the baptismal font where blessed Ibernando di Offida was said to have been baptized.

The hill where Santa Maria Della Rocca is perched has undergone several reinforcing interventions. The first reinforcement was carried out in 1887. A wall was built to strengthen the North side of the hill. Rain caused several damages in 1914 and 1917. The roof of the church had to be restored and the trusses replaced. 

Recently (1972-73) two lead covers with sepulchral inscriptions (now kept at the Sovraintendenza, Monumenti di Ancona) that probably belonged to Longino D’Azzone’s wife and daughter have been found during some diggings in the church.

Santa Maria Della Rocca Church was re-opened to the public on 2nd June 1986. The frescoes had all been restored, together with the roof and floors. The historical and spiritual treasure of the church came back to light.  

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