Passions & Places

Cattedrale di S.Ciriaco

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Saint Cyriacus Cathedral
La Cattedrale di San Ciriaco

City of Ancona

Le Marche

If it is true that every place has a soul that represents its origins and summarises its history, then the soul of the city of Ancona lies where the Cathedral of San Ciriaco stands.

When, in the 4th century BC, the Dorians arrived in Ancona and named it Ankon because of its unique elbow shape which stretches out along the clean waters of the Adriatic, they chose the summit of Colle Guasco, which calmly overlooks the bay, as the symbolic centre of the civic framework: they built a temple dedicated to Venus Euplea (so that it was a place of worship and an indication of the shore for ancient navigators) and around it they deployed seats of power (the agora, the forum, the theatre) surrounded by walls made of large sandstone blocks.

The first building to be built in the 5th century BC was the early Christian basilica dedicated to Saint Lorenzo, which began new life in the year 1000 AD when the bodies of Saint Cyriacus and Saint Marcellino were moved there and it became a Cathedral. The lengthy construction work on the new building continued until 1200 and during this period the Cathedral breathed the cultural vitality of the city and absorbed its physical features, epitomising them in an astonishing fusion of Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic styles, which make up one of the most interesting examples of Romanesque architecture in Marche. The façade is a tripartite cusp and is preceded by a wide staircase whose sides are lined with imposing, red marble lions that remain eternally watchful over the sacredness of the place. Inside, one is immediately fascinated by the vastness of the spaces and the vertical development of the vaults that culminate in a Byzantine-style cupola with Gothic influences, which is deftly erected on the four pillars and bestows a form of austere and exquisite harmony upon the entire construction.

The cathedral is named after Cyriacus; a bishop saint of Armenian origin who became a martyr in Ancona in the 2nd century AD and was elevated to the honour of patron saint of the city, having been martyred with the pouring of molten lead down his throat. Another important object of worship in the faith of Ancona is kept here: the miraculous painting of the Virgin of all Saints. According to tradition, the painting was donated to the Bishop of Ancona by a wealthy, Veronese merchant around 1620 and by the second half of the following century was already an object of strong veneration by part of Ancona’s population. In 1796, whilst the invasion of Marche by the Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces was taking place, many testified that the Virgin moved her gaze. On hearing these rumours, Napoleon himself wanted to see the painting, but he was so disturbed that he ordered the restitution of the gleaning carried out by his soldiers in the cathedral and the churches in Ancona.

The recent wounds inflicted upon the cathedral by Anglo–American aerial bombings in 1943 and by the earthquake in 1972 have been healed with an extensive restoration that today – under the protection of a sheet of glass on the aisle floor – allows one to see the remains of the first temple dedicated to Venus Euplea.

The cathedral, witness to the birth and development of the Dorian city, has forever embraced the city and the sea with its portal, and has watched over the landing place of travellers in the protected port below.

Come to heart of ancient Ankon, not only to discover this fascinating example of fusion between Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine art, but also to see the magic of one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Adriatic coast.

Special Thanks to:

Municipality of Ancona

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