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Chiesa di San Bernardino

L'Aquila

The church of Saint Bernardine stands at the top of the spectacular same-named staircase in the old town of L’Aquila at about 600 m from the Spanish Fort.

The influential friar John of Capestrano strongly demanded the construction of a church worthy of holding the body of Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444). This persuasive preacher of the Friars Minor died in L’Aquila and was proclaimed a saint in 1450. Initially the Conventual Franciscans opposed the building. However, the works started and were carried out between 1454-1472.

In 1703 an earthquake badly damaged the church that was restored according to the architectural style of the period.

Pope Pius XII conferred this church the honorific title of minor basilica in 1946.

A violent earthquake on the 6th of April 2009 destroyed the apse and the bell tower. Thanks to its rapid restoration, the church was re-opened on the 2nd of May 2015.

From the outside, the visitor will soon realize that the impressive limestone façade is the real protagonist of the surrounding urban space. Initially it was unfinished, but was totally re-planned in 1525 by the artist Nicola Filotesio, also known as Cola dell’Amatrice. He proposed the classical scheme of the Abruzzese churches with three horizontal levels divided into three vertical spaces by columns. In the first level there are the three entrances to the church, in the second there are two circular openings and a three-mullioned window, while in the third one there is the rose window. It is interesting to note that, on the sides of the rose window, there are two “Berdardine’s trigrams”, that is the three letters JHS - abbreviation of the name Jesous in ancient Greek - surrounded by a sun with twelve rays.

The inside has a Latin cross plan which comprises three naves and an octagonal space, covered by a dome. The second chapel, in the right nave, hosts a splendid altarpiece made of glazed ceramic - the work of Andrea della Robbia, nephew of the famous Florentine artist Luca della Robbia - depicting the Coronation of the Vergin Mary, the Resurrection and episodes from the life of Jesus.

In the last chapel, in the right nave, the view is immediately dominated by the massive marble funerary monument of Saint Bernardine that was sculpted between 1488-1504 by Silvestro di Giacomo da Sulmona (also known as Silvestro dell’Aquila), at the request of the wealthy merchant Jacopo di Notar Nanni of L’Aquila.

Finally, before leaving the church, the visitor can admire the precious ceiling made of wood and gold and the majestic organ located on top of the main access, both dated to the 1700s.

Address

via San Bernardino
67100 L'Aquila

Timetables

Monday-Sunday 9.30-12.30; 15.30-18.00