Santa Maria al Monte, the simple beauty of a special day!

s maria monteOn September 12, feast of the name of Mary, the Church of Santa Maria al Monte in Forio at 400 mt. of height above sea level, it “lights up” and welcomes pilgrims from all over the island. Dug in part into the tuff, this “stone church” can be considered a distinctive example of rock architecture.
In his monograph, D’Ascia (1867) reports the news that the church was erected in 1596 by Sebastiano Sportiello to execute a homicide.

Sportiello belonged to the family who founded the church of S. Carlo. Based on the testimony of some descendants of the family, D’Ascia says that the three Sportiello brothers (Sebastiano, Vito Nicola and Andrea), wealthy owners from Salerno, fled to Forio after killing the bishop of their city; for penance, they were forced to build two churches at a certain distance from each other.
D’Arbitrio and Ziviello (1982), on the other hand, assumed that local populations built the church when agriculture and hence rural settlements spread also to mountainous areas. The church, built in a strategic position, became a point of reference for the peasant communities settled in those areas, satisfying religious, social and practical needs.
S. Maria al Monte did not only serve as a place of worship to preserve the religious traditions of the population, but also was a point of aggregation, meeting and gathering in case of danger.
It was abandoned around 1930 and was used as a shelter for animals and wood storage. It was restored in ‘57 thanks to Grandma Carmela Picarelli and the offerings collected by the Forian faithful. She has represented the soul of the party for many years together with other locals who are devoted to the Madonna. Such as the pastor still very active Don Pasquale Sferratore, Luigi Luongo called “bijoux” and Bartolomeo Impagliazzo, “Bartiluccio” to whom is dedicated the uphill racing race that takes place every year in the afternoon of September 12 starting from the “Cinema delle Vittorie”.
A fascinating day, that one of the celebration of the name of Mary, which runs through celebrations, procession with Ss.Sacramento to “Punta Gallotta” and lunch together: a sort of “second Easter Monday” for the islanders, with the inhabitants of the area that do not hesitate to open to them all on that day their simple homes.
In the afternoon, the latest Masses and the festive arrival of participants in the racing race close a lovely page of the Ischian year, which brings us back a little while away from the chaos of everyday life for a few hours, making us breathe the scent of things simpler and more beautiful!
The Church, the close hamlet and the woods can be reached from Via Bocca, an ancient country road, now residential, located at the side of the provincial road that joins the municipality of Forio with the hamlet of Panza. The road is almost fully traversable, although in more than a minute there are strong climbing ripples that suggest prudence and attention to driving.
The alternative, to say hello, is to walk the entire route so you can enjoy the views and glimpses that appear, unexpected, during and at the end of the journey. Another possibility is to get to the Church crossing before the charming forest of acacie in Frassitelli, Serrara Fontana.


By Francesco Schiano

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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
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