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Location: Piazza Orsini
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The cathedral, with its important size and its high bell tower, is located in the centre of Teramo, point of convergence of the main town streets; around it lay the four historical districts of the centre: San Giorgio, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria in Bitetto and San Leonardo. The building is among the most important religious and architectural works in Abruzzo and the events of its construction are intertwined with one of the saddest and most violent events that the city remembers.

Around 1156, Teramo was almost completely destroyed by the hand of Robert III, count of Loretello, related to William I, Norman king of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies. Roberto joined with other counts in the uprising against the legitimate sovereign.

The governor Count Roberto de Aprutinio fought hard to ensure the integrity of the Norman dominions and was among the few Counts who remained loyal to the house of Altavilla. Probably the governor died in a desperate and vain attempt to not deliver Teramo to the invading troops. The town was besieged, sacked, burnt and finally destroyed. Private homes, public and religious buildings were almost completely destroyed, including the ancient cathedral of Santa Maria Aprutiensis, which was located in the present Largo Sant’Anna.
Bishop Guido II immediately provided for the reconstruction of the town and of the new cathedral in the attempt to stop the depopulation process.

The works for the reconstruction of the new cathedral began right away after Roberto's passage and were completed in 1176, with the dedication to the Virgin Mary and to San Berardo, already patron saint of Teramo. The place chosen for the construction of the new church can be defined as a “hinge area”, that is capable of connecting and uniting, in the urban vision of Guido II, the terra vetus, old land, which had seen the development of the early Roman and medieval Teramo at the time which today is Corso Cerulli de Michetti, with the terra nova, the current Corso San Giorgio, which had until then failed to sustain the development of the town.

The Cathedral, realized in Romanesque style, had three naves, a salient façade made of two or more pitched roofs, a trussed roof and an octagonal central lantern, with a presbytery, which was very likely already elevated at the time. For its construction, materials from the spoliation of Roman-period buildings, such as the theatre and the amphitheatre, were reused. Inside and outside, square stones, decorated slabs or columns that divide the naves from the two Roman sites are still visible today.

In the first half of the 14th century, the Bishop Niccolò degli Arcioni started an important process of architectural transformation of the Cathedral, lengthening the northern part with a new block, thus loosing the apses. The Gothic style characterises the 14th century enlargement: pointed arches giving a slender effect, very thin columns and great heights compared to the Romanesque ones.

As already mentionned, the presbytery is on the same level as the oldest building and ends outside with another salient façade with a false door. Visible from Piazza Martiri, the fake door was decorated in 2000 with a bronze panel realised by the sculptor Veneziano Crocetti representing the Annunciation. Originally, the entry was probably used by the clergy of the cathedral and wasn’t visible from the Martiri square because the façade, as well as the long side of the building similar to the one in front of the Bishop’s palace, was closed by a thick line of houses and workshops leaning on the religious building.

The first constructions, dating back to the end of 1300, overlapped over the centuries and remained until the 20th century, incorporating the so-called Arco del Monsignore, a covered arch, reserved to the prelate, that linked the Bishop’s palace to the cathedral.

During the expansion, wanted by Niccolò degli Arcioni, the beautiful splayed round-arched portal was added, with three overhangs intercalated with two twisted columns on each side, decorated with mosaic elements in the Cosmatesque style, dated 1332 and signed by the Roman Deodato di Cosma. Two other columns, which rest on stylophora lions, flank the portal and support two elegant statues, an Annunciating Angel and a Virgin attributed to Nicola da Guardiagrele or one of his pupils. The large triangular Gothic tympanum, contains at its centre a round window surmounted by an aedicule containing a statue of the blessing Redeemer and on both sides the two small spire-shaped aedicules that contain the statues of the Baptist and San Berardo. At the centre of the lintel, you can see the coat of arms of Bishop Niccolò degli Arcioni between that of Atri on the right and that of Teramo on the left, emblems of the Teramo-Atri Diocese. The 16th century wooden doors were destroyed and replaced by reproductions, faithful to the original, made by the artist Luigi Cavacchioli in 1911.

The present rectangular form of the façade and the Ghibelline merlons are probably subsequent to the Archonian interventions and together with the high bell tower they symbolise the complex local figure of the Count Bishop or Prince Bishop.

On the right of the façade, the bell tower, just under 50 metres high, cannot go unnoticed. It is made of two parts: the lower one was built in the 12th century while the other, the higher, dates back to 1493 and bears the signature of Antonio da Lodi.

Between 1731 and 1749, Bishop Tommaso Alessio de’ Rossi transformed the interior of the cathedral towards the ending of the Baroque current. Colourful golden stuccoes, polychrome marbles and tinsels of various kinds hid the simplicity of the Romanesque style and the severity of the Gothic enlargement.
We must wait for the Bishop Alessandro Zanecchia, who in the early 1920s, decided to bring the cathedral back to a more appropriate style, the operation was also carried out by his successor, the Bishop Settimo Quadraroli, who between 1922 and 1927, entrusted the architect Pio Ferretti with the task of drafting a project that was however never realised. Bishop Antonio Micozzi, in charge between 1927 and 1944, actively worked to bring the original forms of the ancient Cathedral back to light, with the exception of the Chapel of San Berardo which still maintains the memory of a Baroque decorative opulence.

The interior of the Cathedral is very suggestive, it is divided into three naves that end in an octagonal tiburio towards which, the Chapel of San Berardo, opens on the left. A staircase leads from the lower church to the upper one, where the wooden choir and an organ are located. Towards the Archonian apse, on the right, there is a chapel with a marble altar built in 1786.

The cathedral houses important art treasures: a wooden enthroned Madonna and Child, dating back to the 12th century; a silver bust of San Berardo from the 15th century and the silver arm, also of San Berardo, from the 17th century; a richly decorated sacristy on the back wall by six canvases made in 1622 by the Polish painter Sebastiano Majewski and depicting the Vita e Miracoli del patrono San Berardo and a Sacra Famiglia, elegantly inserted within a Baroque frame; the Stations of the Via Crucis and bas-reliefs of Ulderico Conti.

Finally, the most important works: the silver Paliotto by Nicola da Guardiagrele, placed under the high altar, executed for the cathedral between 1433 and 1448 and commissioned by Giosia d’Acquaviva and the polyptych, placed on San Berardo’s chapel, a masterpiece by the Venetian painter Iacobello del Fiore, dating back to the first half of the 15th century, commissioned by the Augustinians of the church of Sant’Agostino of Teramo and later moved to the cathedral.

Traduzione: classe 3ALL del Liceo linguistico statale Giannina Milli 


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