Between the sacred and the profane

In the Langa del Sole each town has its own church and each neighbourhood forms its own congregation. Each village has its own chapel and each area its own monastery. Faith is widespread. It was especially so in the Medieval times but continues to be a bastion of hope against the uncertainties of life and the harshness of nature. The rise of faith was the first ‘civilizing’ act in an area that was long pagan and barbaric, the sites of worship being claimed to build monuments to religion, the ground both sacred and profane at the same time.

Start in Castino, the village of the three monasteries and home to one of the most ancient and fascinating monastic complexes in the Langa del Sole (the Monastero di San Martino), lose yourself between the bell towers and parish church spires that sprout up like monuments of light out of the forest of dark green. Many of these churches have ancient pasts, their origins dating back to the “Dark Ages” of the Early Middle Ages, when the lines between faith and paganism, Roman antiquity and Germanic rulers were blurry.

The majority of these chapels and churches are built on the foundations of places once sacred to the gods, strategically replacing the ancestral traditions that in the Langa del Sole, long connected Earth to the heavens in worship, praise, sacrifice and gratitude to Mother Nature and her unpredictable ways.

The Monastery of San Martino

Religious life was serious and intense in Castino during the Middle Ages. Three monastic complexes still stand as testament to this. Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Bovo; a Benedictine monastery in the city centre, in front of the Santa Margherita parish church that has been refurbished into residential living; and San Martino, outside of town centre, in the middle of fertile plains. It is the San Martino monastery that is of particular interest due to its unknown date of construction. From the architecture, historians believe it could be pre-12th century, but none are sure. The ruins still showcase two stone apses, with single lancet windows typical of the Romanesque style and part of the bell tower.

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della Torre

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