Basilica of Sant'Elia

Basilica of Sant'Elia

The history of the Basilica of Sant’Elia

The Basilica of Sant’Elia is part of a greater complex which goes by the name of Pontifical Sanctuary of Santa Maria ad Rupes.

The structure lies on the bottom of the Suppentonia valley, right below the town of Castel Sant’Elia. A few steps away from the edifice it is possible to access the naturalistic route of the Mola crevasse, which leads into the ravines. The basilica was built in the early years of the 11thcentury by the abbot Elia.

In a papyrus document dated 557 and conserved in the town of Ravenna, a previous monastery built in that same area is first mentioned. The cathedral came under the control of the Farnese family in the period in which they ruled over the town. It was in those years, precisely in 1607, that a great rock precipitated onto the building, causing damage to the partitions on the left-hand side of the structure. The Farnese family saw to the renovation of the cathedral.

The structure endured a subsequent phase of decay, slowly progressing up until the 20th century, which coincided with the building of the new parish Church of Sant’Antonio Abate. It was finally under the pontificate of Pio IX that the basilica was subjected to a careful restoration managed by the architect Vespignani. From that moment on the cathedral rapidly became an important destination for pilgrimage routes.

La Basilica di Sant'Elia

La Basilica di Sant'Elia

Facciata della Basilica Di Sant'Elia

Facciata della Basilica Di Sant'Elia

The interiors of the basilica

The Basilica of Sant'Elia presents a three-aisled structure with transept, a typical example of the Romanesque style.

The central nave counts seven arches on each side, supported by columns embellished with Corinthian capitals, which are likely to have been assembled by reusing salvaged material collected from ancient Roman villas. The apse is decorated by fresco paintings, while the main altar is surmounted by a ciborium adorned with a great Cosmatesque cross.

The flooring of the central nave and part of the transept are also decorated in Cosmatesque style, that of the Alexandrine period.


The fresco paintings

The frescoes decorating this basilica are considered some of the most fascinating examples of Romanesque art conserved within the Lazio region.

Dominating from above the apse basin there is a fresco depicting Christ the Redeemer, Saint Peter and Paul, together with another two not yet identified saints. These look down at the figures painted just below, the twelve angles, standing for the twelve apostles, arranged so as to create movement which converges towards the central Christ. Moving once again downwards we encounter a procession of virgins, all wearing crowns, here as an offering to the Virgin Mary. This latter figure is unfortunately no longer visible.


The crypt of the basilica

The crypt of the basilica encloses the tomb of Saint Nonnoso, connected to the aisle on the right by means of a staircase covered by a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The remaining section of the crypt, of greater dimensions compared to the other, houses the tomb of Saint Anastasio, positioned directly beneath the central section of the apse.


Opening hours

Saturday and sunday: 10:00 - 12:00 17:00 - 19:00

Entry: 5,00 €

Free entry for children under 18 and persons aged 65 and over. The cost is reduced by 50% for groups of 20 or more people.

Deeply embedded in the ravines, the Basilica of Sant’Elia is a unique monument of the Lazio region. Come and visit Castel Sant’Elia and discover the secret places hidden within the Agro Falisco!

Where is the Basilica of Sant'Elia


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