All About Italy (USA) - - Photorepor­tage - Margherita Pi­tu­ano

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.

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