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Fermo, Portal of the former Church of Our Lady of Charity, later Mount of Piety





The hospice of Our Lady of Charity was built near the Church of Our Lady of Carmel around 1341 with the purpose of offering hospitality to strangers, pilgrims and abandoned children. For a long period of time it managed to cover its expenses thanks to the alms given by the faithful, but from 1417 onwards it survived only as a result of a series of rents from which it began to benefit. Around 1522, the xenodochium was replaced by a Mount of Piety, founded on the proposal of the Franciscan Domenico of Leonessa to grant small loans in exchange for a pawned object as a guarantee and intended to combat at the same time the spread of usury. The succession of different stones around the portal of the building suggests quite a high number of restorations, but the studies carried out by Carlo Grigioni seem to point to important embellishment work, done around the 1480s by a stone mason who learnt his art in the territories of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The ogival archivolt is characterised by turgid Gothic leaves which twist like flickering tongues of fire up to a thick clump, from which rises the bust of the Omnipotent depicted in the act of blessing. Inside the arch, there is a sculptured relief which stands out from the rest of the ornamental elements owing to the white Istrian stone of which it is made. On a background decorated with drapery stands a projecting Our Lady of Mercy who protects under her wide cloak a large group of believers.

As Alessandro Marchi also points out, the majestic figure of the Virgin with her robes defined by ample and coarse drapery seems to be an earlier production than the luxuriant foliage of the ogival archivolt. However the typically 15th-century clothes of the kneeling faithful attest to its production in a time span not at all different from that of the entire portal. Also worth noting is the trilobate double-lancet window raised at the apex, which recalls the flamboyant Gothic of the buildings flanking the Grand Canal.