Lentini, finishes restoration of medieval saints in the rock church of the Crucifix

In Lentini (Syracuse), restoration of the medieval Theory of Saints in the rock church of the Crucifix ends, thanks to contributions from FAI Places of the Heart.

In Lentini (Syracuse), the restoration of the so-called Theory of Saints frescoed in the rock church of the Crucifix, located in Carlentini, a short distance from the historic center of the Sicilian town, has been completed. The intervention was made possible thanks to a contribution of 15,000 euros obtained through participation in the eighth edition of I luoghi del cuore del FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano, held in 2016: the Lentini site, with 3.831 votes obtained thanks mainly to the activity of collecting signatures and raising awareness of the civic initiative group Lentini nel Cuore (which brings together citizens and voluntary associations such as Neapolis, Archeoclub Lentini, SiciliAntica, ProLoco Lentini and Lions Club Lentini) has thus been recovered from serious degradation and will now be the subject of a communication and action plan in the area devised by the Neapolis Association.

The Church of the Crucifix in Lentini is part of a large and complex apparatus of rock settlements, consisting of mostly artificial caves, which were used over the centuries as both dwellings and places of worship. The frescoes contained within it, created between the 12th and 17th centuries, despite their rarity and considerable value, have long been neglected, and their poor state of preservation (all the more so in a humid environment such as that of the cave) has prompted citizens to mobilize to safeguard the property. The fresco of the Theory of Saints, datable to an unidentified period between the 14th and 15th centuries, includes depictions of St. Elizabeth, Mater Domini, St. Leonard, St. John the Baptist and a holy bishop, and is located on the wall of the cave’s ambulatory. The recently completed intervention, supervised by restorer Raffaella D’Amico, eliminated the deterioration factors present and brought to light the “days” of the fresco (i.e., the progressive stages of the painting’s creation), the saints’ onomastic inscriptions and pictorial details now concealed, restoring the entire work to legibility.

“After the excellent result in the 2016 census of ’I Luoghi del Cuore’ (Places of the Heart),” says Giuseppe Taibi, FAI Sicilia president, “I express full satisfaction with the restoration of this fresco in one of the important oratories of Byzantine Sicily, recovered thanks to the intervention of FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo, together with the institutions and associations of Lentini. A fundamental step toward the overall recovery of the rock church, which I hope will continue successfully. I take this opportunity to invite everyone to vote by November 30 for their Places of the Heart in the ninth edition of the census.”

Sergio Cilea, head of the FAI Delegation of Syracuse, says, “The return to the community of this splendid place of faith represents the redemption of a community that has shown how the rebirth of an area must pass through the rediscovery of its roots and its history, and testifies to how associationism and volunteerism represent an important resource for civil society. Thanks to the action of local committees and the Parish and the support of FAI, the Rock Church of the Crucifix, like other properties in Italy, has been saved from probable further deterioration if not total destruction: what seemed impossible has become possible.”

“We owe a great deal to ’I Luoghi del Cuore,’” stresses Don Maurizio Pizzo, pastor of the former cathedral of Santa Maria la Cava and of the parish of Sant’Alfio in Lentini: “with its sensitivity to Italy’s cultural and artistic heritage, the FAI has started a virtuous process that we, in our own small way, have been striving for for some time. Together with local associations we had already put initiatives in place, but the contribution of such an important national body helped us to shine the spotlight on this place and awaken dormant consciences. As soon as the news of FAI’s contribution arrived, associations and service clubs close to us allocated new human and economic resources in favor of the cave. The fruits of this experience are the construction of the fence, by the Agesci group and the local Lions International section, and the contribution for the restoration of the ’Nursing Virgin,’ funded by the local branch of the ArcheoClub of Italy. We hope that soon we will be able to recover the Cave in its entirety and have it enjoyed by the public according to increasingly busy schedules.”

Christian Vecchio, President of the Neapolis Association, representing the Lentini nel Cuore Committee, comments, “The bond and the attention shown by the community have led the Rock Church of the Crucifix to become a symbol of cohesion and collaboration between entities, citizens and associations in the area. An awareness that started from the bottom and that has strengthened ties, helping to reinforce the sense of belonging. Always sensitive to the historical and artistic memory of the community, we local associations, united since 2016 as the Lentini nel Cuore Committee, are following up on our commitment to the asset. During the restoration works, several extraordinary openings have been organized and, in 2018, we joined the ninth edition of ’The Places of the Heart’. Soon we will communicate new activities and the new calendar of openings to the public, in the sign of continuity and love for our land.”

Pictured: the restored fresco of the Theory of Saints.

Lentini, finishes restoration of medieval saints in the rock church of the Crucifix
Lentini, finishes restoration of medieval saints in the rock church of the Crucifix

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