Artistic heritage to visit in Massa Lubrense

The Sanctuary of La Lobra and the ancient cathedral

Thanks to an essay by A. Vuolo we learn of a Benedictine abbey in Massa, dedicated to St. Peter, down in Marina della Lobra; the church was part of it, which later became the first cathedral of the city, dedicated to S. Maria della Lobra. Vuolo cites various sources and in particular Augustin Lubin who writes: «Near Massa Lubrense [is] the church commonly called S. Maria Vergine della Lobra, as if it took its name from the ancient temple (delubrum) of Minerva, first under the title of S. Pietro alla marina, once used as a cathedral».

When the diocese of Massa Lubrense was born in 1024, the abbey was almost certainly used as an episcope. The first bishops of Massa were called lobrani, probably not only for the strong bond with the Madonna della Lobra, but also because the entire Marina Lobra, with all the gardens that gradually rose towards Quarazzano, belonged to them and they lived there almost as in a fiefdom. The cathedral had three naves divided by columns, the apse housed the still intact fresco with the Madonna enthroned and the child in her arms. The location of the bishop’s seat so close to the sea created quite a few problems, in fact it was often subject to restoration because it was continuously damaged by storms and by pirates.

Following the tsunami of 1343, the bishop was forced to move to a safer place. He then chose to build an episcope and cathedral at the Annunziata. The new church was also dedicated to S. Maria della Lobra. For two hundred years all the documents indicate both the marina church and the Annunziata church as cathedrals. One was known as S. Maria la Vecchia and the other as S. Maria la Nova.

At the end of the sixteenth century. the church at the Marina was now so damaged as to force the citizens of Massa to intervene drastically to save the fresco. The city parliament met and decided to build a new church alongside a convent in a more protected place. So thanks to the availability of the bishop who granted land for the Mensa, the University and the Pio Monte dei Poveri of Massa, the Sanctuary was built. In 1570 Costanzo Parascandalo cut the central part of the fresco and carried it in procession to the current church. Shortly afterwards, in 1584, the sanctuary was entrusted to the Friars Minor of S. Francesco.

The Cathedral of the Annunziata.

“I shut the window and lay on the bed, but after having stayed awake for a good while, as I began to sleep, a noise and an earthquake woke me, which not only opened the windows, and extinguished the lamp which I usually keep at night, but it shook to its foundations the room where I was staying”… it is said that this storm raged along the whole Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian Sea and everywhere.” With these words Petrarch recalls the tsunami that hit the Gulf of Naples in 1343. The damage it caused to all the coastal cities, including Massa, was immense. Following this, the bishop was forced to move from Marina della Lobra to a safer place. he chose the Annunziata where he built a new cathedral with the bishop at his side.

The new church was dedicated to Maria SS. della Lobra and to distinguish it from the one in the Marina, always and in any case rebuilt, it was called Maria SS. della Lobra nova or S. Maria la nova while the other was called Maria SS. of the old Lobra. Both, in the documents, are indicated as cathedrals even if the bishop’s chair was transferred to the new church and remained there until the diocese was suppressed in 1818. With the definitive movement of the cathedral to Palma, the church changed its name and became the church of the Annunziata.

In 1565 Msgr. Giovan Battista Palma granted it for use to the Ave Gratia Plena conservatory, a charity set up by Marco Cangiano in his family palace next to the church. Over the centuries, the whole complex has undergone significant transformations until it reached its current form. In it are kept various works by D. Guarino, a splendid altarpiece depicting the Madonna del Rosario by Silvestro Buono and the precious altar in fine marble by Sammartino.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Palma

On 22 April 1506 the city’s parliament met, on the proposal of Msgr. Castaldo, to decide on the construction of a new cathedral in Palma. This choice was not shared by the masses who, despite being in serious economic difficulties, had taken steps to restore and embellish the other two cathedrals in Marina della Lobra and Annunziata. Despite the strong opposition of citizens, the bishop managed to obtain a favorable opinion. The confraternity of s was invited to the meeting. Erasmus, whose seat was a church in Palma. They decided to offer it to the bishop in order to expand it and transform it into the new cathedral. The population hindered this choice in every way, so much so that the laying of the first stone took place in the middle of the night of March 25, 1512. The building proceeded very slowly, so much so that it was necessary to arrive on July 8, 1543 to consecrate the church .

In 1526 Msgr. Marchesi had become the new bishop of Massa, he was a very cultured man and an excellent patron of the arts. Once he took office he decided to make a change in the construction by modifying the initial project. He summoned the confreres of St. Erasmo proposing a new agreement, according to which the ancient church had to be razed to the ground to make way for the new building. The confraternity accepted and in exchange obtained the chapel which today belongs to S. Cataldo.

Thus the new church was built in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves. At the end of the cruise two chapels were built, one dedicated to St. Erasmus and the other at the SS. Savior. At the center of the presbytery stood a splendid frescoed dome with the stories of Genesis by Andrea da Salerno, now covered by the apse. Between the dome and the choir of the canons was placed the splendid polyptych of the Madonna delle Grazie by the famous Marco Cardisco. Unfortunately, this work was destroyed, only the central altarpiece depicting the Madonna delle Grazie remains. In the crossing, the master stonemasons of the city carved four chapels in Massa stone. Among the most valuable works that can still be admired are the Baptism of Christ by Girolamo Imparato and the frescoes by Fattorusso.


Parish of the SS. Savior of Schiazzano

The farmhouse of Schiazzano was inhabited since Roman times. Over the centuries, being located in the center of the territory and easily accessible from all the farmhouses, it was chosen as a residence by the most powerful families of the city. We remember in particular the Cangianos, the Romanos, the Mollos and the de Martinos. They were all very rich, of noble origins and well placed at court. Their economic strength came from maritime trade and from the management of the banks they owned in Naples. They were also the owners of the sailing ships that traded in the Mediterranean. Their wealth can still be glimpsed in the main buildings of the farmhouse, that of the Mollos in front of the church, of the Romanos on the Schiazzano slope and that of the Cangianos in the highest place.

In the latter, during the 15th century, the bishop and the entire curia were hosted before the construction of the cathedral in Palma. The parish of the ss. Salvatore was used for a short time as a cathedral. This church is a splendid example of Baroque art. Built in the fifteenth century. from the Cangiano family, it had already been elevated to a parish before 1521. Contrary to what has been claimed in the past, it was never rebuilt. The date 1624 that can be read on the architrave of the entrance door refers to the period in which its Baroque transformation began. It has a single ship with three altars on each side and two chapels facing each other placed before the presbytery. Above the eighteenth-century marble altar stands a splendid altarpiece depicting the Transfiguration dating back to the sixteenth century. It houses works by Domenico Guarino, Michele Regolia, de Matteis.

The floor is the work of Ignazio Chiaiese di Leonardo the son of the riggiolaro who created the expulsion from Eden in the church of s. Michele in Anacapri.

The Conservatory of the SS. Rosary in Monticchio

At the beginning of the eighteenth century. Cristina Olivieri, a Neapolitan noblewoman was often a guest of the Tizzano family in the Monticchio farmhouse, in this place she loved to take refuge to enjoy the beauty of nature and the wholesomeness of the air. She was a very strong woman, animated by a deep faith. In 1723, wanting to found a conservatory in Massa and right in the farmhouse that she loved most, she decided to buy some land near the parish. This is how the construction of the Madonna del Rosario conservatory began.

From the outset, Olivieri found herself facing a long series of obstacles, first of all the reaction of the masses who tried in every way to block the construction. It was only thanks to the intervention of the bishop, Msgr. Giacomo Maria de Rossi, who succeeded in her intent. While construction proceeded, mother Olivieri asked to place the new conservatory under the rule of St. Dominic. Shortly after, three nephews of Ignazio Chiaiese, a famous Neapolitan riggiolaro, entered the monastery. Ignazio was the son of Leonardo the artist who had created the floor with the expulsion from Eden in the church of s. Michele in Anacapri. He was so impressed by Olivieri that he decided to support his work with the proceeds of her work. It was he, after his mother’s death, who took care of the construction of the church and completed the conservatory factory. In this place you can admire some of his most beautiful works: the floor of the church and the panels in the cloister.

The largest sees him portrayed on his knees in front of the Madonna as a perennial reminder of her conversion. After the death of her mother Olivieri she immediately began the process of beatification she came to be proclaimed a Servant of God.