SPRINGTIME REBIRTH IN ABRUZZO
At the foot of the Gran Sasso is a city “as strong as stone and as delicate as snow”. L’aquila, a historic university center loved by tourists and students alike was brought to its knees by a tremendous earthquake in 2009. Yet today, the city rises again, starting with its priceless artistic heritage.
To begin with, the altar of Santa Maria di Collemaggio — the restored basilica that illuminates the road leading to the capital of Abruzzo. While distant from the historic center, its marvelous buildings and ancient churches, an ambitious project and unique model of collaboration between Italian universities, the city, the superintendency and energy company Eni, brought it back to its original splendor. It is a spiritual sanctuary immersed in the greenery of the Parco del Sole, an area of 130,000 square meters with an open theater designed by the internationally renowned American architect Beverly Pepper. Bearing three rosettes, and white and red stones arranged in a cross-shaped pattern that characterize the facade, this medieval-art haven tells the story of Celestino V, the “hermit father”. At 78, Celestino was profoundly loved and revered, despite his ascetic life and living in an age when Church corruption was being publically chided. He was crowned Pope in the Basilica of Collemaggio, a structure of his own making, by Carlo D’angiò.
He preached forgiveness — specific religious and penitential conditions through remission of the temporal punishment of sins, opening the way to the first Jubilee year, proclaimed by his successor Boniface VIII. Celestino V was remembered by Dante in the Divine Comedy as “the one who refused cowardice” since he decided to renounce the papacy almost immediately after being elected. He paid the price with imprisonment under harsh conditions and extreme suffering. Today the masterpiece facade, the symbol rosette, the Holy Door and the remains of Pope Santo Celestino V find new life and rebirth in the most lively of seasons.