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Amandola, Abbey of Saints Rufinus and Vitalis

Along the Faleriense provincial road, at about seven kilometres from the town of Amandola, stands the Abbey of Saints Rufinus and Vitalis, which was built around the second half of the 11th century by order of the Bishop of Fermo and of the feudal lords of Smerillo and Monte Pasillo. The presence of a hypogeum, to which access is gained through an opening in the crypt, has led to the presumption that the zone was the site of an earlier settlement, datable perhaps to around the 6th century. This is a cave dug into the sandstone with a fascinating late imperial group of paintings, in which the characters depicted recall the mosaic figures present in a number of churches in Thessaloniki and Ravenna. Its original use has not yet been ascertained, but some believe it was a pagan temple, others that it was a spa using the nearby sulphur spring, others again instead maintain that it was a paleochristian burial chamber. The abbey, which was built above the hypogeum, has an extremely simple faēade, decorated only by the portal framed by two buttresses which features a double archivolt. While the corpulent bell tower, built between 1504 and 1517, is marked by sober double-lancet windows, the apse crowned by a double saw-toothed cornice, is broken up harmoniously by pilasters and single-lancet windows. Crossing the threshold we find ourselves in a space covered by trusses and divided into three naves, the walls of which are decorated by a series of frescoes all datable to around the 15th century. The presbytery is elevated with respect to the rest of the floor owing to the crypt beneath, which is entered via two stairs located at the end of the side naves. This room, which is divided into five cross-vaulted naves, is pervaded by a mystical silence which encourages us to observe with deference the dry paintings decorating the walls and the relics of Saint Rufinus conserved under the altar.