Art & CultureArt & Culture

The parish church of Montesorbo in Mercato Saraceno

by /// September 26, 2022
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes



On the top of a hill, on the foot of Mount San Vicinio, hidden behind the valleys of Savio and Borello, the Parish Church of Santa Maria Annunziata of Montesorbo rises, one of the most characteristic religious buildings in the territory of Romagna.

The church goes beyond its religious relevance, as it is a testimony of the territory’s history in Antiquity, as well as in the Middle Ages and Modernity.

But let’s take a step at a time…

As we were just saying, the church is just above the little town of Mercato Saraceno, on the way to Ciola, which already had a castle when the church was built.

Today, the Parish Church of Montesorbo is an isolated building made of stones and bricks set on a hillock; the street takes you directly in front of the church’s façade.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Giuseppe Gerola started to develop an interest in the church of Montesorbo.

Despite the several years and the periods of neglect and decay, at the beginning of the 21st century, the church underwent some serious restoration works, finally becoming an architectural as well as historical and artistic heritage that can be visited by everyone.

Originated presumably in the 6th century, and being the result of a series of events that took place in the territory of Romagna, the Church of Montesorbo, with its architecture and elements, tells us today all about its busy history.

The parish church of Montesorbo (Mercato Saraceno, FC)
The parish church of Montesorbo (Mercato Saraceno, FC) | Photo ©

The history of this church is quite full of events and, to some extent, still not completely clear.
The stones, with which the church was built and which also constitute the building’s inner furnishing, open a window on the church’s long years of evolution, even more than what the written documentation says.

As the parish church of San Pietro in Sylvis in Bagnacavallo, the church of Montesorbo is a palimpsest-monument that shows what the different historical epochs have left.

First of all, its structure. The Latin cross plan, which is common to many other religious buildings, immediately outlines an irregularity.

The studies show the cross plan was not built according to a well-organized project, but it is rather the result of a succession of different plans, modified and renovated over time.

It was first a smaller church with just one room; then, it became a church with three naves and a body. Finally, it gained the current structure, with a central body and a transverse transept.

The parish church of (Mercato Saraceno, FC)
The parish church of (Mercato Saraceno, FC) | Photo ©

Just looking at the building, you get the church’s chronological complexity. On the walls, the several redeployed ancient and medieval architectural elements suggest that historical complexity, to say nothing of the circular apsis, enriched by a series of earthen sculptures that unmistakably refer to the Romanesque age (11th – 12th-century a.D.).

The outside is just an appetizer, though, whereas the main course is inside.

As soon as you enter, thanks to a competent restoration carried out in the years 2000, the splendid 15th-century ciborium in the area of the presbytery captures all the attention.

The research and restoration work on this precious object have dated it back to the half of the 14th century, as a peculiar inscription discovered in one of the intrados suggests.

What is even more important is that thanks to these works, the elements of the ciborium (made with redeployed materials too) became visible again and won value, including the partial restoration of the Renaissance and modern painted decorations.

The parish church of (Mercato Saraceno, FC)
The parish church of (Mercato Saraceno, FC) | Photo ©

On the side, however, we glimpse other elements that tell about a more recent past. The columns and capitals of the church date all back to the Antique and Romanesque epochs, maybe coming from buildings of the nearby town of Sarsina.

On the other hand, the refiness of the precious marbles, coming from different areas of the Mediterranean, recalls buildings of great prestige.

The tracks left by history are much more: some reassembled fragments of the decorated arches of an early medieval ciborium are on the side of the main nave, dating back between the 8th and the 9th-century a.D.

In the chapels of the transept is a lapidarium, which displays several architectural elements dating back to Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Modernity, such as fragments of capitals, plutei, architraves, and slabs with animal and vegetal decorations as well as depictions recalling religious meanings.

Among the slabs, worth a mention are the one decorated with a gemmed cross and an epigraph, and the slab of bishop Florentius.

The parish church of Montesorbo is so perfect historical and material, proving one of the most suggestive ones of Emilia-Romagna.


Davide Marino

Davide Marino was born archaeologist but ended up doing other things. Rational – but not methodic, slow – but passionate. A young enthusiast with grey hair

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