Città di Fermo

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Oratory of St Monica and Church of St Augustine

11-IMG_0319---S-Agostino-copia

ORATORY OF SANTA MONICA

In the complex urban context of Fermo, the district of Campoleggio is undoubtedly one of the most interesting districts, rich in various Roman, medieval and Renaissance artistic testimonies that still document the economic vitality and the careful choices of how many have lived there, even after many centuries. Among these artistic elements the Oratory of Santa Monica preserves an important cycle of restored late Gothic frescoes, thanks to the determination of the Confraternity that owns the Oratory since 1825.

On the facade a plaque with gothic characters is written that the building was built between 1423 and 1425 by Giovanni di Guglielmo from Fermo; the simple architectural structure shows the most typical features of gothic that characterizes the local architecture between the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth. The simple gabled façade is crowned by a sequence of brick arches that frame the ceramic basins made by a central-Italian manufacturer of that time; further down there was a theory of saints in majolica glazed with bright colors, today reduced to a few fragments.

The severe doorway was once surmounted by a brick pinnacle culminating with a statue of the Baptist in polychrome stone, now kept inside the oratory: also the elegant terracotta phytomorphic scrolls adorn the small single-lancet windows that give light inside the temple.

The quadrangular oratory with a sail cover was decorated, around 1430, by a cycle of frescoes that, to allow the rehabilitation of the wall structures, were torn from the walls to be consolidated and restored and only in 1995 they were relocated.

The attribution of these fascinating frescoes is still an intriguing problem for art historians: the Rotondi (1936) assigned them to the Salimbeni brothers, a reference accepted by various scholars, until the same Rotondi (1962) reported them to the master of Beata Serafina and he noticed there affinities with the style of Alberto Alberti. Fabio Bisogni, an historian of arts, noted instead the analogies with the representations of Giacomo di Nicola from Recanati Montepulciano, also as Andrea de Marchi.

Finally, we should mention a hypothesis by Federico Zeri, according to which the author of the Santa Monica cycle would be an artist of Pesaro origin, also active in the Campania area.

Even in anonymity, these frescoes still represent an important testimony of the transitional moment of the ornate and sumptuous style dear to the late Gothic masters to the more realistic and spatially coherent one of the early Renaissance. The seductive courtly grace of some figures, with those participating in the "Banquet of Herod", joins the severe layout of other episodes, such as in "San Giovanni a Patmos" or in the "Preaching of the Baptist", pervaded by an atmosphere of great emotional concentration.

The background wall, without frescoes, now houses an imposing Crucifix in polychrome wood, dating back to the second half of the fifteenth century.

It can therefore be affirmed that the frescoes of the Santa Monica Oratory, together with the others in the adjacent temple of St.Augustine, constitute for the ancient city of detention a considerable patrimony of art and culture and for the numerous visitors, an opportunity to better know the artistic beauties of the Piceno.

THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST AUGUSTINE

The church of Sant'Agostino is of Romanesque-Gothic foundation and is dating back to the mid-thirteenth century; transformed in 1360, it was subsequently modified. It has a high facade with two orders, preceded by a staircase. Remains of the primitive construction are visible on the right flank.

In the atrium there is a fresco of the fourteenth century with the Nativity and one of the early 1400 that represents the Madonna and Child with saints. The interior (eighteenth century), with a single nave at Latin cross, is very interesting for the frescoes (second half of the century thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries), which develop on the walls; the church has a raised floor about three meters from the Romanesque building and it reveals the structure of the Gothic church.

Near the entrance, on the right, is the Madonna with the Child and the Saints Agostino, Antonio Abate and Antonio da Padova; behind the second altar on the right, on two areas there are: below, the thirteenth-century frescoes with saints, Madonna and Child, another saint and the Madonna della Pace; above, others from the fourteenth century with the Crucifixion, the Saints Peter and Paul and, above, the Annunciation; to the right of the presbytery, there are some fragmentary frescoes of the '300 and' 400 with the Eternal and Saints; on the left, in an area (formerly an old chapel) are other frescoes of the second half of the 13th century, among which, above, Madonna della Misericordia and Saints, below, Annunciation, Crucifix, Eternal Father and two saints; next to the left of the transept Annunciation and Marriage of the Virgin; along the left wall, the first saints pillar and on the next pillar the fifteenth century Madonna with Child and saints; behind the second altar the fourteenth-century fresco with the Dormitio Virginis. In the Chapel of the Spine (left arm of the transept) there is a Gothic reliquary with the Holy Thorn (according to tradition one of the thorns of the crown of Jesus) that was in Sant’Elpidio, but was stolen and transferred to the 1377 in Fermo.