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The Church of San Nicola
Chiesa di San Nicola

The photos on this page are from the recent restoration work of the Church. At the end of the work the images will be updated.

The Church of San Nicola stands in the place formerly called "Borgo de li Greci" and the singularity of its position consists in the fact that it is located outside the walls of the castrum as we know it. The construction of this building is probably due to the presence of a massive colony of Greeks settled in the area, which had constituted a real urban agglomeration of decent size following their widespread diffusion in the territories of the Abbey. The name of the current Via Greci is direct evidence of the presence of that village. The devotion to St. Nicholas is further proof of the presence of Greeks, or rather, of populations linked to the Byzantine culture in which devotion to the Bishop of Myra was very present.

There is no information on the date of construction of the church, Thomae Abbatis (1285-1288) is mentioned for the first time in the Regestum II and we find it still mentioned in the Registruum Censium et Confinium of 1377 preserved in the Montacassino Archive.

The church measures approximately 27 meters long, 11 meters wide and almost 7 meters high. The bell tower is about 24 meters high with sides of 4 meters each. Inside, the original structure had a single nave, with an atrium at the entrance which has now disappeared. Subsequently two lateral bodies were added, the right aisle still visible and which has a significant cycle of frescoes, and one on the left no longer traceable which was to communicate with the central nave through a door. Adjacent to the church there was a cemetery.

The bombings of the Second World War put a strain on the resistance of the structure and the building was seriously compromised at the end of the conflict. A series of interventions carried out in the last century have been providential and have preserved the valuable cycle of frescoes in the church. These are paintings whose realization ranges from the 11th to the 14th century, works by Benedictine painters in which the so-called "Giottesque ways" were found, assuming that the great master's lesson may have reached San Vittore thanks to some disciples who they would have crossed the territory passing through Naples.

Many frescoes have been lost and of others only the sinopias remain, but despite this the surviving pictorial cycle is still very interesting today. Starting from the right wall, immediately after the entrance, the figures of San Luca and San Giovanni Battista are recognizable. On the first arch of the right aisle there is a judging Christ flanked by the Madonna and again by San Giovanni Battista.

On the left wall you can see a saint, identified with San Cristoforo, San Pietro and San Nicola to whom the church is dedicated.

The frescoes in the apse have been almost completely lost with the exception of a few fragments in which a Christ and other unidentified figures are recognizable.

But it is on the right side of the church that the best preserved and most interesting pictorial cycle is present. The representation of the seven corporal works of mercy is very valuable: "to feed the hungry" - "to drink the thirsty" - "visit the sick" - "dress the naked" - "host pilgrims" - "visit the prisoners" - “bury the dead”. The approximate dating of this cycle is known because the work, according to an inscription, was commissioned in the fourteenth century by the then rector of the church Nicola da Guererio. Together with this cycle of frescoes we find the one dedicated to the martyrdom of Santa Margherita di Antiochia. It starts from the meeting of the Saint with the pagan governor, passing through the testimony of her Christian faith before the governor himself, up to the scene in which the Saint beats the devil with a hammer, represented in a subsequent painting with monstrous features, and to the scenes of his imprisonment, the scourging, the immersion in a boiling cauldron and the beheading. Also on the right side we find a very beautiful scene of the Annunciation.

Also of note is a painting that has now almost disappeared and is located on the left side, immediately next to the entrance. It is a coat of arms that was thought to have disappeared. We went to look for it and although in very precarious conditions it is still there. It is not just any coat of arms but that of the Orsini family. In fact, you can see the oblique bands and the buttoned rosette at the head of the coat of arms. The relevance of this sinopia is given by two factors: first of all, because it is the "original" coat of arms of the Orsini family, that is, without the meandering eel that was added only later, when the Orsinis incorporated the fiefdom of Anguillara; second, because from the archives of Montecassino it appears that an Angelo III Orsini was Abbot from 1362 to 1365 and therefore it is reasonable to assume that some frescoes were commissioned by him. This aspect provides the most accurate dating we are aware of today.

Chiesa di San Nicola
Chiesa di San Nicola
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