The Church of San Pietro in Albe

Located in Abruzzo, the region of Italy that sits beside Lazio where Rome is located, is the impressive church of San Pietro in Albe -- now a museum rather than an active church. The church is situated over a former pagan temple to the Roman god Apollo located in the small Italian town of Massa d'Albe. The church is of particular interest to those interested in medieval and paleochristian forms. The original church founded on this site was built in the sixth century with the present building having it origins in the twelfth. The church was regrettably harmed early in the twentieth century -- the result of an earthquake -- but was rebuilt a few decades later at which time the opportunity was taken to remove features that had been added during the eighteenth century, restoring it back to its more paleochristian and medieval forms. 

The church as it stood in the early twentieth century prior to earthquake damage. One will take note of the monumental reredos that has been added to the sanctuary..

The restored medieval arrangement -- though it may have also have had a ciborium over the altar at some point in its history.

The church boasts a beautiful, cosmatesque ambo which was completed in the year 1209, ornamented with precious stones, red porphry and various carvings. 

Dated to the thirteenth century is the balustrade which separates the sanctuary from the nave, a classic feature of paleochristian and Romanesque churches, and one of the shared inheritances of the Christian East and West. The balustrade is also done in cosmatesque and includes Solomonic columns. 

As mentioned earlier, a later sanctuary arrangement from the eighteenth century had been installed which would come to be removed during the rebuilding of the church, therefore restoring an arrangement more aligned to the historical origins of the church.

The restored Romnaesque sanctuary

The altar and sanctuary as it stood in the early 20th century prior to the damage caused by the earthquake. One can see that the reredos covered up the original apse of the church and the whole arrangement was pushed forward toward the balustrade. Busts were added to the top of the balustrade.

A view of the church taken from its rear shows the beautiful, open timber Romanesque ceiling.

As well, visible here are the beautiful Corinthian columns which line the nave of the church in its classic basilica form. 

A remarkable structure and, given the period of its restoration, a reminder too that the use of such forms remain a possibility even in our own age. 

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