Abbey of S. Urbano sull'Esinante: the most fascinating and mysterious Romanesque church in Le Marche
It is one of the oldest and most important abbeys in Le Marche, built in the San Clemente Valley, amidst gentle hillsides.
The Abbey of St. Urban on Esinante is among the Romanesque churches that most intrigue visitors due to its position: it is oriented towards Jerusalem, a symbol of light and the Divine.
Symbology and mysteries
In antiquity, it was common practice to include symbolic architectural elements in religious buildings. They usually take up concepts from astronomy and mathematics, and so it was in the case of the Abbey of St Urban: inside there is a circular eye above the apse, which offers a unique spectacle twice a year, on 25 May and 19 July, in the early hours of the morning, when it is struck by a beam of light that illuminates its contours.
An effect certainly intended and studied, but what the real reason for its existence is unclear. For thaumaturgy, resting the nape of the neck or forehead on the light sign can heal and protect against headaches. But there are also other theories according to which the circular eye indicates the power of the Blessed Sacrament.
A leap back in history
Sant'Urbano stands in an isolated position on the left bank of the Esinante stream, a tributary of the Esino river, in the municipality of Apiro, in the province of Macerata.
The Benedictine Abbey, supposedly dating back to the 10th or 11th century, is dedicated to the local patron saint, who held great religious and civil power. Continuing quarrels with neighbouring areas led to the burning of the building in the 13th century. The complex, which was a landmark for farmers, was damaged but not completely destroyed: it was later entirely restored, following the model of Sant'Elena in Serra San Quirico.
In the 19th century, with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte, Sant'Urbano passed into state ownership, before being sold to private individuals and then turned into a farm. Finally, in 1978, it was donated to its current owner: the Municipality of Apiro.
Why is it a special abbey?
As soon as you enter St Urban's Abbey, you will realise the uniqueness of its architectural structure: its layout has three naves on pillars, while only the central part of the ancient facade, which has been modified several times, remains.
One of its special features is the curious elevation of the presbytery, as a result of the crypt. This results in a greater separation of clergy and faithful, typical of Romanesque architecture in the region.
Pay attention to the eight capitals, especially the one on the right pillar at the front of the church, the five on the chancel and the five on the counter-facade wall. Their geometric and floral motifs are impeccable and are reminiscent of the chapter house of the abbey of San Salvatore in Valdicastro di Fabriano and the church of San Ansovino di Avacelli di Arcevia.