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Culture: Religious Heritage


Le Marche is a region in Italy known for its rich religious heritage. The area is home to 200 churches, cathedrals, and monasteries, 90 abbeys and 183 shrines, showcasing a blend of architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic and Renaissance. These religious sites often house exquisite artworks, frescoes, and sculptures that offer insights into the region's cultural and historical development. From the stunning Basilica of Loreto to the impressive Cathedral of Urbino, Le Marche's religious heritage is a testament to its spiritual and artistic significance. The Marche region is also the birthplace of 10 popes from Pope John XIII (1003-1009) to Pius IX (1846-1878).

Please find below a guide to some highlights of Religious Heritage in each of the five provinces of Le Marche:


© Giacomo Alessandroni / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0

Fonte Avellana, Serra Sant’Abbondio, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for a map)

The Monastery of Fonte Avellana, located in the Apennine Mountains of Le Marche has a rich and storied history that spans over a millennium. The exact date of the monastery's foundation is uncertain, but it is believed to have been established around the 10th century. It was founded by Saint Peter Damian, a prominent theologian, reformer, and cardinal within the Catholic Church. Fonte Avellana followed the Benedictine tradition, emphasizing a life of prayer, work, and study. The monastery became known for its commitment to intellectual pursuits, scholarship, and spiritual reflection. During the Middle Ages, Fonte Avellana flourished as a cultural and spiritual centre.

The monks of the monastery were dedicated to copying manuscripts, producing illuminated texts, and engaging in theological discourse. The library of Fonte Avellana became renowned for its collection of valuable manuscripts. Saint Peter Damian, who founded the monastery, spent a significant part of his life there. His writings, sermons, and teachings contributed to the spiritual and intellectual legacy of the monastery. He played a crucial role in shaping the character of Fonte Avellana and its monastic community. Dante visited Fonte Avellana and described it in the Divine Comedy.
Over the centuries, the monastery underwent various architectural changes and expansions. The structures within the monastery complex reflect a mix of architectural styles, from medieval to later periods. Fonte Avellana's influence extended beyond its immediate surroundings. The monastery's monks were known for their scholarship, and their contributions to theology and spirituality had a wider impact. However, like many historical institutions, the monastery also experienced periods of decline and challenges. The Monastery of Fonte Avellana has managed to survive through the centuries, even during times of upheaval. Today, it continues to welcome visitors, pilgrims, and scholars who are drawn to its historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. The Monastery of Fonte Avellana stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Saint Peter Damian and the Benedictine tradition. Its history reflects the ebb and flow of time, and it remains a place of contemplation, scholarship, and connection with the past.

Fonte Avellana
Temple Valadier

© Alicudi  / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Temple of Valadier, Genga, province of Ancona (Click here for a map)

The Temple of Valadier, located in Genga is a fascinating architectural gem with an intriguing history. This neoclassical temple was designed by the renowned architect Giuseppe Valadier and was built between 1816 and 1832.

The temple is situated within the Frasassi Caves complex, a breathtaking natural wonder known for its stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations. Giuseppe Valadier was commissioned to create a structure that would harmonize with the unique natural surroundings while serving as a place of worship and contemplation. The Temple of Valadier is carved into the limestone rock and features a circular design with a domed roof. Its elegant neoclassical architecture is characterized by graceful columns and meticulous detailing. The interior of the temple boasts a serene and intimate atmosphere, making it a tranquil space for visitors to reflect and admire the beauty of both the architectural craftsmanship and the surrounding cave formations. Over the years, the Temple of Valadier has become a popular destination for tourists and those seeking a unique spiritual experience. Its location within the Frasassi Caves adds to its allure, making it a remarkable fusion of natural and architectural wonders that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.

San Ciriaco

The Cathedral of San Ciriaco, province of Ancona (Click here for a map)

The Cathedral of San Ciriaco, situated in Ancona is a significant religious and architectural landmark with a history dating back centuries. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Cyriacus, an early Christian martyr and the patron saint of Ancona. The original construction of the cathedral is believed to have started in the 11th century, with subsequent additions and renovations carried out over the centuries. Its architectural style is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic influences, reflecting the evolution of architectural trends during different periods. One of the most notable features of the Cathedral of San Ciriaco is its stunning facade. The facade is adorned with intricate sculptures and decorative elements, showcasing the artistic skills of the craftsmen involved in its creation. The cathedral's interior is equally impressive, with ornate chapels, beautiful frescoes, and a sense of grandeur that befits its status as a place of worship. The cathedral has witnessed historical events and transformations over time, including periods of prosperity and cultural exchange.

Its strategic location overlooking the Adriatic Sea contributed to Ancona's importance as a bustling port city, and the cathedral played a central role in the religious and social life of the community. Today, the Cathedral of San Ciriaco continues to be a hub of religious activity, drawing pilgrims, worshippers, and tourists alike. Its historical significance, architectural beauty, and religious importance make it a must-visit destination for those exploring the cultural heritage of Le Marche and Italy as a whole. 

San Vittore

© Massimo Roselli  / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.5

The Abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse, Genga, province of Ancona (Click here for a map)

The Abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse, situated in Genga, province of Ancona has a rich history that dates back to its founding in the 11th century. Originally established as a Benedictine monastery, it played a significant role in the religious and cultural landscape of the region. Over the centuries, the abbey underwent various renovations and expansions, reflecting different architectural styles and influences. One of the distinctive features of the abbey is its stunning location within a gorge, which adds to its unique and picturesque setting. This strategic position not only contributed to its allure but also served practical purposes for defence and isolation.Throughout its existence, the Abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse experienced periods of prosperity as well as challenges. It survived various historical events and transitions, contributing to the local community and the religious heritage of the area. Today, the abbey stands as a testament to the historical and architectural significance of the region, attracting visitors and scholars alike who are interested in exploring its past and appreciating its beauty.


Pilgrimage to Loreto, province of Macerata (Click here for a map)

​For hundreds of years, Catholic pilgrims have made the journey to the small city of Loreto, nestled in the beautiful Marche countryside, to worship at the holy shrine of the Holy House of the Virgin Mary (La Santa Casa della Vergine Maria). Nowadays about four million faithful come here each year, and it is regarded as one of the major pilgrimage sites in the Catholic world. Since its construction in 1294 it has been visited by more than 200 saints and beatified people, and numerous Popes. Pope John Paul II described it as ‘the true Marian heart of Christianity’. The experience for the pilgrim is a deeply moving one. Many miracles are said to have happened here, and people come in humility to ask the blessed Virgin for help or healing. 

The story has it that the three stone walls which constitute the Holy shrine arrived here by ship from Nazareth in 1294. They were dismantled and transported by crusaders expelled from Palestine in 1291. There is a wealth of documentary and archaeological evidence to show that the walls were indeed transported by ship at this time, under the instruction of the Angeli family.

This family ruled over Epirus, a region of south-eastern Europe between the Pindus mountains and the Ionian Sea in an area now divided between Greece and Albania. The original house would have consisted of the three stone walls and a rock cavern, which is also visited by millions of pilgrims in Nazareth, and it is believed to have been the home of Jesus as a child, and the place where Mary received the Annunciation.

One recently discovered document, dated 1294, states that Nicefero  Angeli offered the Prince of Taranto a dowry for marriage to his daughter, Ithamar, of treasures that included ‘stones taken from the Home of Our Lady the Virgin Mother of God’.

​In the mid 15th century it was decided to build a large sanctuary around these humble stone walls in order to protect them for the benefit of future pilgrims. This is the impressive Basilica which one can now see standing on the top of the hill, silhouetted against the sky, from a few kilometres away.

Loreto also has other attractions for the tourist or pilgrim, having many artistic and architectural treasures to offer.

It is also close to some lovely beaches, and the surrounding countryside is charming.


The Abbey of Fiastra, province of Macerata (Click here for a map)

The Abbey of Fiastra, also known as the Abbey of Santa Maria di Chiaravalle di Fiastra, is a medieval Benedictine monastery located in the province of Macerata, in the Marche region of central Italy. The abbey was founded in 1142 by Cistercian monks, who belonged to a strict monastic order that emphasized simplicity and self-sufficiency. The abbey complex includes a large church, a cloister, and several other buildings that were used by the monks for various purposes, including living quarters, a library, a scriptorium, a hospital, and a guesthouse. The church is notable for its Romanesque architecture, which features a central nave with two side aisles and a transept, as well as a series of frescoes that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

Throughout its history, the Abbey of Fiastra played an important role in the religious and cultural life of the region. The monks who lived there were renowned for their knowledge of agriculture, medicine, and other sciences, and they helped to develop the local economy by introducing new farming techniques and establishing markets for their products.

The abbey was also a center of learning, and its library was one of the most important in Italy during the Middle Ages. The monks produced many works of literature, philosophy, and theology, and their manuscripts were highly prized by scholars throughout Europe. Today, the Abbey of Fiastra is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore its historic buildings and learn about its rich cultural heritage. The abbey also hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including music concerts, art exhibitions, and religious ceremonies.

San Claudio

The Abbey of San Claudio al Chienti, province of Macerata (Click here for a map)

The Abbey of San Claudio al Chienti is a Benedictine monastery located in the Marche region of central Italy. The abbey was founded in the 11th century and dedicated to Saint Claudio, a martyr from the early Christian era.

The abbey played an important role in the religious and cultural history of the region, serving as a center of monasticism, education, and art. Over the centuries, the abbey underwent numerous renovations and expansions, with various architectural styles reflecting the changing tastes and influences of the times.

One of the most significant features of the abbey is its church, which was built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century. The church has a rectangular plan and is divided into three naves with a transept and apse. The facade features a portal with columns and a rose window, while the interior is adorned with frescoes and other decorations. In addition to the church, the abbey complex includes a cloister, chapter house, refectory, dormitory, and other buildings. Today, the abbey continues to serve as a place of worship and reflection for both the monastic community and visitors to the region.


The Sanctuary of Macereto, Visso, province of Macerata (Click here for a map)

The Sanctuary of Macereto, also known as the Sanctuary of Macereto, is a religious site located near the town of Visso in the province of Macerata.  It holds historical and spiritual significance and is nestled within the stunning natural beauty of the Sibillini Mountains. The sanctuary is dedicated to the Madonna of Macereto, and its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages. It is believed that a small chapel was initially built on the site in the 13th century to honour the Virgin Mary. Over time, the sanctuary grew in importance and became a destination for pilgrims seeking spiritual solace and healing. The Sanctuary of Macereto gained further prominence during the Renaissance period when a more substantial church was constructed, featuring a harmonious blend of architectural styles. Its location amidst the picturesque Sibillini Mountains added to its allure and attracted visitors not only for religious purposes but also for the breathtaking natural scenery. Throughout its history, the sanctuary has faced periods of decline and restoration. It has survived earthquakes and other challenges, demonstrating the resilience of its religious and cultural heritage. Today, the Sanctuary of Macereto remains a revered pilgrimage site and a symbol of the spiritual and natural beauty that defines the Le Marche region. It offers a unique opportunity for visitors to experience both religious devotion and the splendour of the surrounding landscape. 

San Nicola

The Basilica di San Nicola of Tolentino, province of Macerata (Click here for a map)

The Basilica di San Nicola of Tolentino has a rich history dating back to the medieval period. It was built to honour Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, a 13th-century Augustinian friar known for his piety and miracles. Construction of the basilica began in the late 13th century and continued over the following centuries, resulting in a blend of architectural styles, including Romanesque and Gothic element The basilica became a significant pilgrimage site due to its association with Saint Nicholas and the reported miracles attributed to him. The relics of Saint Nicholas, including his mummified body, were enshrined within the basilica, drawing pilgrims from near and far. Throughout the years, the basilica underwent various renovations and additions, reflecting the evolving architectural trends of different eras. Its interior features beautiful frescoes, sculptures, and altarpieces that showcase the artistic achievements of the region.The Basilica di San Nicola remains an important religious and cultural landmark in the Le Marche region of Italy, attracting visitors interested in its historical significance, architectural beauty, and spiritual heritage.

Santa Maria Assunta

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Fermo, province of Fermo (Click here for a map)

The history of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Fermo is a journey through time, reflecting the evolution of architecture, art, and religious devotion in the Le Marche region of Italy. The cathedral's history traces back to ancient times when it was built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. This indicates the enduring religious significance of the location. The foundations of the current cathedral were laid in the early Christian period, around the 9th century. The church underwent modifications and expansions over the following centuries. During the Middle Ages, the cathedral underwent significant architectural changes, influenced by Romanesque and Gothic styles. The construction of the cathedral continued in stages, reflecting the religious and cultural aspirations of the time.
he cathedral underwent further transformations during the 14th and 15th centuries, including the addition of Gothic elements and decorative features. The bell tower, which stands as a separate structure, was also constructed during this period. The Renaissance era brought further changes to the cathedral's appearance, with elements of Renaissance architecture integrated into its design. This era also witnessed the addition of artistic masterpieces within the cathedral.
Throughout its history, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta accumulated a wealth of art, including sculptures, paintings, frescoes, and religious artifacts. These artistic contributions showcased the devotion of both artists and patrons to the religious and cultural ideals of the time. Over the centuries, the cathedral has undergone several restoration projects to preserve its architectural and artistic heritage. These efforts have ensured the cathedral's continued significance as a cultural and religious landmark. Today, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the past. Its architecture, art, and religious significance continue to captivate visitors, offering a glimpse into the history and cultural richness of Fermo and the Le Marche region. 


Eremo di San Leonardo in Montefortino, province of Fermo (Click here for map)

The Eremo di San Leonardo is a hermitage located near Montefortino, a town in the province of Fermo. The Eremo di San Leonardo has ancient origins, possibly dating back to the medieval period or earlier. It was established as a place of solitude, prayer, and reflection for hermits who sought a life of spiritual devotion away from the distractions of the world. The hermitage served as a retreat for individuals seeking to deepen their spiritual connection and engage in a life of asceticism and contemplation. Hermits who resided at the Eremo di San Leonardo would have led a simple and austere lifestyle, focusing on prayer, meditation, and self-discipline. 
The hermitage is typically situated in a serene and natural environment, often amidst picturesque landscapes. Its architecture is characterized by simplicity and humility, reflecting the spiritual values of those who inhabited it. The Eremo di San Leonardo holds religious and cultural significance as a place where individuals could withdraw from the world to seek a closer relationship with God. Over the centuries, the hermitage may have attracted pilgrims and visitors who sought solace and a deeper connection with their faith. Many hermitages, including the Eremo di San Leonardo, have undergone restoration efforts to preserve their historical and cultural heritage.

Maria della Rocca

The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca, Offida, province of Ascoli Piceno Click here for a map)

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Rocca.jpg

© pizzodisevo / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca, located in the town of Offida is a remarkable religious and architectural landmark with a history spanning centuries. The church's history dates back to the medieval period, with the earliest construction believed to have begun in the 13th century. It was built on a rocky hill overlooking the town of Offida, which contributed to its name "della Rocca," meaning "of the rock. "The architectural style of the Church of Santa Maria della Rocca is a captivating blend of Romanesque and Gothic influences. Over time, the church underwent various renovations and additions, resulting in a unique fusion of architectural elements from different eras. One of the most distinctive features of the church is its imposing facade, characterized by a rose window and intricate decorations. The interior of the church is equally impressive, with ornate chapels, frescoes, and sculptures that showcase the artistic achievements of the region. The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca has played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of Offida and the surrounding area. It has witnessed historical events and social changes over the centuries, and its strategic hilltop location has made it a prominent landmark visible from a distance. Today, the church continues to be a place of worship, drawing both locals and tourists interested in exploring the rich history and architectural beauty of Le Marche. The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca stands as a testament to the enduring faith and artistic heritage of the region.


The Cathedral of Sant'Emidio in Ascoli, province of Ascoli Piceno (Click here for a map)


The Cathedral of Sant'Emidio has a fascinating history that spans centuries. Dedicated to Saint Emidius (Sant'Emidio in Italian), the patron saint of the city, the cathedral has undergone numerous changes and renovations over time. Originally built in the 5th century, the cathedral underwent significant reconstruction and expansion during the Middle Ages, reflecting the architectural styles of different eras. It features a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance elements, showcasing the evolution of architectural design. One of the cathedral's notable features is its stunning rose window, which is a characteristic of Romanesque architecture. This intricate window adds to the cathedral's visual appeal and historical significance. The cathedral also houses various artworks, sculptures, and religious artifacts that reflect the cultural and artistic heritage of the region. These treasures have been preserved and displayed over the years, contributing to the cathedral's role as a cultural and religious landmark. Throughout its history, the Cathedral of Sant' Emidio has played a central role in the religious and civic life of Ascoli Piceno. It has witnessed historical events, celebrations, and changes, remaining a symbol of the city's identity and heritage. Today, the cathedral continues to attract visitors and pilgrims who are drawn to its architectural beauty, religious significance, and the historical legacy it represents.

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