6

Relations with the Church

Sacred architecture

    
Termoli Cathedral
    
Saint Mary della Strada in Matrice

The church of St Mary della Strada in Matrice is located on a side track of the Pescasseroli-Candela sheep-track. Because of its position the building, consecrated in 1148, became an important stopover for pilgrims that from the hinterland of present-day Molise travelled to the Apulian sanctuaries. The building has a rectangular triapsidal floor plan. The interior is divided into three naves by columns with squat capitals ornamented with highly stylised vegetal patterns. The presbytery is raised three steps above the level of the naves. The exterior, which is characterised by an elegant stone face made of large well-squared ashlars, has a richly decorated fašade and right-hand side portal, which was probably the work of artists. The decoration of the main fašade is very complex and not yet completely clear from an iconographic viewpoint: at the top, on the sides of a rose-window, three animal figures appear in high relief, while animal scenes, some of which fantastical, and human figures accompanied by floral, vegetal and geometrical patterns, appear in a less accentuated relief in the tympanum and lunette on the central portal. Other figured scenes appear in the two lunettes on the sides of the portal: according to some interpretations they represent episodes from two different Chansons de gestes, the Libro di Fioravante and the Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandhi. The scene in the lunette on the side portal is clearer: it depicts the myth of Alexander the Great, whose carriage is drawn skyward by two griffins.
Other works of medieval sculpture are preserved in the church, including the fourteenth-century tombstone of Bernardo di Aquino.

The left-hand lunette
The scene depicted in the lunette is probably a representation of Fioravante freeing a maid abducted by three Saracens. Of special interest is the figure of the hero on the right, represented astride his horse in the act of attacking the Saracens. He wears the typical garb of a Norman warrior of the time of Roger II de Hauteville, an iron mesh armour without hood, a vertical-ribbed helmet without nosepiece and an almond-shaped shield.

Two bronze door-knockers
Two bronze door-knockers with leonine protomes, dating back to the first half of the 12th century and probably designed for a door of the church, are preserved in the church of St. Cristina at Sepino. The protomes, which are attached to a disk decorated with geometrical patterns, have stylistic affinities with similar pieces found on the door of the cathedral of Troia, built by Oderisio da Benevento and dating back to 1127. These analogies lead us to hypothesise that the artefacts originate from the same workshop and are therefore to be considered important figurative evidence of the connections between Benevento and the Molisian town, which at the time was part of the territory of the Norman Duchy of Bojano.


     Saint George in Petrella Tifernina
    
Saint Angelo in Grotte