San Pietro ad Oratorium in Capestrano

The classic form of the early Christian basilica has always remained one of my very favourites and so the church of San Pietro ad Oratorium caught my attention recently. The church is located in Capestrano in south-central Italy and while the ravages of time have taken their toll on its painted decoration, the church remains absolutely spectacular. 

The church is thought to have its origins in the eighth century though the current church structure dates primarily to the eleventh. 

The form of the church is typical of the basilica model, including its spectacular open timber trusses and columns which separate the central nave from the two side aisles. 

The altar -- which originally was a pagan altar apparently (and which is said to still show signs of burnt offerings from those times) is surmounted by a ciborium magnum which dates to the thirteenth century.

The frescoes which are found within the sanctuary are in ochre hues and depict Christ and various saints and around the arch are found the twenty four elders of Revelation. These frescoes date to the first half of the twelfth century. 

A view back toward the entrance of the church:

The outside of the church is both simple and classical and include architectural fragments of earlier, classical Roman origins. 

One curious feature of the church is the so-called "magical square" which has been inserted upside down into the wall:

Formed by five words and five letters that can be read from left to right, right to left, top to bottom and bottom to top, the precise meaning isn't known. This is a relic of the original ninth century construction.

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