Recently we were invited to yet another birthday celebration, by our friends Anna and Santo.  Santo is originally from Sicily and misses his birthplace greatly.  How I would like to visit Sicily one day.

These festivities were for their daughter little Isabel who was 5 years old.

(Just 55 years younger than poor old Kay and Elsie !!! but my time will come when I am 60 in a couple of years time – where does the time go !!!)

Isabel is a little “sweet heart” and very comical !!!

Here I think I will let the photos do the talking ….

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Happy Birthday Isabel and may you have many, many more happy ones !!!

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Thank you for inviting us to share this special day with you and your lovely family. Dear friends, my dream is that one day you will be able to meet my family too.

 Auguri !!!

I hope you like the photos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few days after Elsie’s party a couple more good friends arrived from Cardiff, Nicki and Callum, who had volunteered to help out for a week in the “Tre Cancelle” olive groves.  This was their second visit to Itri. 

Sadly this year once again we had no olives.  It is not just us, though, it is the same in many of the olive groves in Itri, because there were strong winds back in early May when the trees are in bloom and the flowers failed to set. 

We have recently got some workers in to help with some pruning in the lower section of the grove, and they had left behind piles of branches and twigs that littered the ground. 

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The job in hand was then to chomp out and separate the chunky branches from the smaller twiggy ones, called “frasche”, using pneumatically powered secateurs.

Then all the small branches have to be gathered up and burned.

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The burn ferociously because of the amount of oil in the sap.

We all got stuck in and worked our cotton socks off for several days and managed to clear several of the terraces.  In fact it became a quite a challenge as to how many terraces we could conquer.   Callum is only 14 but he worked so hard. Nicki you should be so proud of him.

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However, it wasn’t all work and no play that week.

We all went out for a special birthday meal at the “Casareccia” in Campodimele and were joined once again by our American friends from Ohio, Florisa and Patrizia.

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Once again Maria served up copious amounts of wonderful handmade delicacies.

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Callum is a keen young cook and whilst staying at Tre Cancelle he made a fabulous chocolate cake.

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You can come and stay again Callum !!!

On their last evening we took Callum, Nicki and Kay to the Bellavista.

Here Callum had a one to one lesson in art of pizza making, by the expert himself – Massimo !!!

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It’s not as easy as it looks !!!  It is all about stretching the dough.

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Callum made a special pizza for his mum ……

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10640987_10204396131097029_3836549291719371199_nNicki, Anna and Kay

Thank you Kay, Callum and Nicki

for all your support and hard work during that busy week. 

We couldn’t have done it without you !!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In November, to celebrate Elsie’s milestone birthday, Elsie, Kay and another friend Brenda decided to take a few days holiday in Sicily, a place Elsie had always longed to visit.  They rented a small apartment in the centre of Palermo and experienced first hand Sicilian life in this hectic city. On Elsie’s birthday Kay organised a sight seeing trip in a traditional horse drawn carriage, followed by a special meal.

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They also managed to fit in a day trip to the seaside resort of Cefalù.

lthough it was November the weather was beautifully warm and Brenda was able to have a paddle in the sea.

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Meanwhile back in Itri I was busy preparing a surprise birthday party for Elsie at the Bellavista restaurant with some live music by our friends Santo and Anna.

Elsie was really shocked as she entered the room as assembled were many of our friends from Itri and some other American friends from Minturno.

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Florisa and I had baked a special cake.

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The next day was to be my friend Florisa’s birthday, so after midnight we celebrated hers too.

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Thanks to everyone for making it such a memorable joyous occasion.

Photos by Kay McRobbie

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, sadly all good things must come to an end. 

All the members of the “We Love Atina !!!” Group seemed to really enjoy their long weekend in Atina.  They were a great bunch of people and everyone got on so well.  The weather was so kind to us, lovely warm sunny days, perfect for all our little trips around Atina and it environs.

We enjoyed several lovely evening meals together at …

The Villa Fortuna’s restaurant in lower Atina / Ponte Melfa.  We found it to be very friendly, the food was very good, tasty and reasonably priced.

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We also used the Villa Fortuna’s bar as our meeting point and were made so welcome by Marcello and Christiane, the Italian / American owners who also share our passion for Atina and genealogy. We were also able to use their Wifi network which was very useful.  Thanks guys !!!

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Paul and Trevor, Paula and Brigida

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Gina and Mary

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Brigida, Gina and Mary

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Ernesto and Mark

The group also had a lovely meal one evening at the well known restaurant named “Il Vicolo” in Upper Atina, which was also very enjoyable. 

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Brigida, Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul, me Louise, Mary, Delfa

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Trevor, Gina, Enrico, Paul

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Gina and her father Enrico

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Delfa and her daughter Paula

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Brigida and Trevor

You can read more about “Il Vicolo” here:

Il Ristorante Il Vicolo on TripAdvisor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One lunch time we went for a spot of lunch at “La Botola” (opposite the Museum) and had the typical Atina dish of “pasta e fagioli“.

Osteria-Enoteca La Botola on TripAdvisor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During their stay in Atina Brigida and Trevor, and Gina and Enrico chose to stay at the Fontana Vecchia, which is situated a little outside Atina, so a car would be useful.  They found the owners to be very friendly and helpful and would have no hesitation in recommending it to future visitors of Atina.

Fontana Vecchia Website

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary stayed at the “Hotel Virginia” near the centre of Atina.  Here are some photos she took of the view from her room:

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She said: “It was very clean and quite retro … A mix of old and new, the owner’s husband is a French architect and he designed it. The owner also took me to the train station in Cassino when i left and would have picked me up too if I had called her … I spent a week there and I was the only one in the hotel so a bit scarey.   It was very central for Atina, if like me, you are without transport.”

Hotel Virginia Website

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia is also well recommended.  It is situated in the heart of the old town. However it only has 2 rooms

The Bed & Breakfast Posta Vecchia on TripAdvisor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We’d also like to recommend the Hotel Villa Fortuna (who also have the bar and restaurant above) to anyone looking for accommodation in and around Atina.  This is situated in lower Atina, in Ponte Melfa.

Villa Fortuna Website

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, we are soon  to plan next year’s “We Love Atina” Group’s next gathering in 2015.  We hope it may become an annual event. 

The date is still to be decided, however some have asked if it could be held during the summer months. 

Any further feedback would be much appreciated.

If you would like to join us, please feel free to join our

“We Love Atina !!!” Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/62618687824/

or get in touch with me.

We’d love to hear from you.  The more the merrier !!!

Ciao for now !!!

Louise

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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Some members of the “We Love Atina Group” stayed on for a couple more days to see for themselves the Feast of San Marco, the patron saint of Atina. Marco Galileo is said to have been an apostle of St Peter and was persecuted and martyred for his Christian faith in Atina, during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.

Once again we  met up at the café next to the Arco in Piazza Garibaldi.

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Trevor & Brigida Varley, Gina & Enrico Battaglia and Paul

On this occasion we had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Tambourine and her husband Billy, who are both from Scotland. They are frequent visitors of Atina.

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Festivities were just starting to get underway. There was a brass band playing across the square by the Convent of San Francesco.

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I went up to the church and peaked inside where the ceremony was still taking place.

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There was San Marco in all his glory.

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By this time darkness had fallen and I wandered through the streets

admiring the illuminations.

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The New Fountian

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Billy and Lorraine

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The Cattedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Bandstand

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After the church service there was the procession

throughout the streets of Bella Atina.

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The festivities continue into the night

when at midnight there is a grand firework display.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

We took some of the group to Montecassino Abbey, which is just a short drive away from Atina.  Mary Gilmour, Gina Polard and her father Enrico Battaglia had not had the opportunity to visit the abbey before.

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Saint Benedict of Norcia founded the ancient Monastery of Montecassino in 529 AD and the order of  the Benedictines.  The Abbey was built on the ancient ruins of a Roman fortification, and became renowned through the ages as a place of great holiness, culture and art.

During World War II Cassino was a stronghold of the German Gustav line and the abbey was almost completely destroyed by the Allied forces who carpet bombed Cassino and the Abbey, the decimation of this holy bastion gave rise to a massive public outcry. After the war the Abbey was eventually rebuilt according to its original design, and brought back to its former glory.

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As you enter the Abbey you first come to a peaceful cloister, and standing in the centre of the garden is a bronze statue depicting Saint Benedict as he is dying, being comforted and supported by two of his Benedictine brothers.

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In the cloister is a beautiful and colourful mosaic.

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This leads on to the Bramante Cloister.

In the centre there is an octagonal well.

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Gina and her father Enrico

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Gina and her father Enrico

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Mary

From the balcony on the lower section there is a stunning panoramic view of the Liri Valley.  P1290843a

The Monastery’s vineyard

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Enrico admiring the view

Steps lead up to a higher cloistered area and the facade of the grand Basilica, which has three bronze doors.

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As we entered the Abbey the monks were singing verpers.

The inside of the Basilica is incredibly ornate and lavishly decorated.

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There are wonderful examples of colourful intricate inlaid marble work.

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Another Cloister with a fountain.

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Mary larking about !!!

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Enrico Battalglia

More than 30,000 soldiers lost their lives at Cassino and many are buried in the relevant British, French, Polish, German and Italian Military Cemeteries.  The Polish Cemetery is positioned on a hillside overlooking the Abbey, a footpath leads down to the entrance which is guarded by two stone eagles.  1,052 Polish soldiers are interred here, each grave is marked by a cross and the graves are laid out on a terraced area. Above the terrace is a hedge, clipped and shaped to form a hollow cross. An inscription, which translated from Polish reads:

We Polish soldiers for our freedom and yours

Have given our souls to God

Our bodies to the soil of Italy

And our hearts to Poland”.

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You can read  more about Montecassino and Cassino here at my website:

http://cassino.shapcott-family.com

We then headed for the British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Cassino, here the individual gravestones stand upright in the landscaped grounds which are meticulously tended in memory of the fallen soldiers.  Here in this tranquil sanctuary more than 4,200 brave young Commonwealth servicemen now slumber in eternal peace, overlooked by the abbey from aloft.

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I always feel so sad and emotional when I visit these cemeteries. We have another such cemetery not far from here, in Minturno with contains yet another 2,049 Commonwealth graves.  So many fine young lives lost – and what for I ask? Paul, my husband, said to me – “Imagine seeing instead of gravestones all these soldiers standing up proud in their uniforms, ready to defend their country / commonwealth. How splendid they would have looked.” We must never forget that each one was a wonderful person, courageous, loving, with a family behind them, who would miss them forever.  The same applies to all British soldiers who fought for their country so bravely in wars across the world  but didn’t make it back home.  We must also remember all those injured and maimed.

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May they rest in peace but remain in our hearts and prayers.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

From Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Francesco Massa also organised for us to visit a local museum by the name of Casa Museo Académie Vitti.  We did not know of its existence prior to this, and from the outside it just looked like an ordinary house, but once inside what a treasure trove it proved to be.

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The museum is dedicated to the Academie Vitti, a private art school, founded by Cesare Vitti in the Boulevard de Montparnasse, Paris in 1894. During this period the Montparnasse quartier was a centre of art and bohemian culture which attracted artists from all over the world.

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Casa Museo Académie Vitti, Atina *

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There were three beautiful Caira sisters, namely Maria, Anna and Jacinta, who worked as professional models posing for artists, sculptors and photographers. They came from Gallinaro, a small town in the centre of the Val di Comino, quite near to Atina. On display are many nude sketches in pencil, charcoal and chalk and paintings and drawings by Jacinta Caira.

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Anna Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti

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Giacinta Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti

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There are also many postcards and photographs of models in costume taken by the greatest photographers of the time, such as Nadar and Naudet.

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Maria Caira married Cesare Vitti.

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Maria Caira * Casa Museo Académie Vitti

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The Academie Vitti became one of the most respected schools of Art in Paris and operated without interruption for about 25 years, until the beginning of the First Word War in 1914 when the Vitti’s and Caira’s decided to return to Italy.  They lived in the very same house where the Museum is now situated.

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Cesare Erario is a direct descendant of the family and decided to open a museum to exhibit the family’s treasured private collection of authentic works and memorabilia.

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Thank you to Cesare and Francesco Massa

for organising this really interesting visit.

* cc photos -Wikipedia

All other photos

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our Visit to the Winery of La Ferraria. 

La Ferriera is an establishment run by a family that has a long tradition in the production of wine, specializing in the production of quality red wines with the designation of origin ‘Atina Cabernet DOC’.  It is located in the Rosanisco district of Atina and is housed in the buildings of an old Iron Foundry.

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The Iron works were founded by the Bourbon king Ferdinand II  in 1858 to extract iron from the ore mined in the nearby area of Monte Meta.  There have been mines situated here since Samnite / Roman times, and it was this that historically gave Atina much of its wealth and accordingly the name of “Atina Potens”.

The plant had a huge blast furnace with a large air pump or bellows to ventilated it.  Today it is draped with a curtain of vines and creepers.

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There is a spacious courtyard surrounded with other buildings which were utilised as warehouses in which to store the raw materials, workshops, administrative offices and accommodation for the some of the workers.  Unfortunately the life of the Ironworks was to be short lived as it shut down in 1860 and was left abandoned.

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In the centre of the courtyard stands an ancient poplar tree.

Below – Lucio Mancini giving us the guided tour.

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Some of the old building are now used for the production of wine. The Cabernet and Syrah varieties of grape are cultivated in the vineyards of the estate of Colle Alto in lower Atina, in the beautiful Val di Comino. 

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Modern equipment has been installed for the production of wine with controlled temperature and inert atmosphere in order to obtain a good extraction.

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The wine is aged in barrels make of French Oak, with maturing on the lees and finally in the bottle. 

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La Ferriera specializes in the production of quality red wines with the designation of origin’ Atina Cabernet DOC ‘.

The Realmagona DOC, is produced with Cabernet and Syrah grapes, We also tasted the Dorato derived from Pinot Bianco and Malvasia varieties.

Below Lucio Mancini  overlooking the wine tasting.

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Lucio Mancini  overlooking the wine tasting

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On the left – Francesco Massa

We were also kindly invited to taste of some other local delicacies.

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Mary and Jan Waldron

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Brigida Varley and Paul

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Mary Gilmour, Trevor and Brigida Varley and Paul

 Delicious !!!

Thank you to Lucio Mancini – Sales Executive of La Ferriera and Francesco Massa – Consigliere Comunale of Atina for organising this interesting tour for us.

Thank you very much to Mary (shown on the left)

for treating us to a lovely bottle of

La Ferriera’s Realmagona Atina Cabernet.

So very kind of you !!!

La Ferriera’s Website

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~

La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta stands in Piazza Marconi, in the centre of the historic old town.

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The Church was decorated in preparation for the up and coming celebrations of the Feast Day of San Marco (1st October), Atina’s patron saint.

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Some of us chose to attend Mass at the Cathedral.

Me, Louise, lighting a candle for my mother in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Atina.

P1290682aAfter Mass Monsignor Domenico very kindly agreed to give us a guided tour of the Cattedrale.

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The church was founded in the 11th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the god Saturn.  At this time the church was dedicated to St John The Baptist, you can see a statue of St John on the exterior facade of the church, located in a niche flanked by the bell towers.

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The remains of the martyr San Marco were deposited there.  In 1280 the church was enlarged  In 1349 the town of Atina and the church were destroyed in a devastating earthquake.  In 1405 a bell tower with four bells was erected. By the 16th century it had three chapels dedicated to SS Rosario, St John the Baptist and St Joseph and later more were added to SS Crocifisso and the Madonna of Loreto.

In 1743 the remains of the martyr San Fortunato were deposited there and in 1725 it was decided to totally renovate and expand the the structure including the construction of the dome,  the renovation works took approximately 20 years.  1746 the new church was reconsecrated and dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and given her name, In 1798 the church was further adorned with the noble facade with two bell towers and in the first half of the 19th century the artist Teodoro Mancini of Atina painted the interior of the dome and the vault of the central nave. In 1873 the building was struck once again by an earthquake which caused the need for major reparations and further enhancements to the structure were included and then on the 3 May 1878 it was deemed to grant the church the higher status of a cathedral.

Since then the Cathedral has withstood the further serious earthquakes of 1915 and 1984.

The church we see today is decorated in an ornate Baroque style.  Monsignor Domenico Simeone showed us the beautiful altar intricately inlaid with multi-coloured pieces of marble in the Napolitan style, similar to work in the Abbey of Montecassino.

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The main Altar of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta.

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The painting of the Assumption above the main altar

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The beautifully carved wooden Choir Stalls

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The Statue of Atina’s main patron saint, San Marco, and the Altar of the Cattedrale

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The Pulpit and the Confessional

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The Baptismal Font –

Many of our Atina ancestors may well have been baptised here.

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Some of the beautiful side Altars and Chapels

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Painting of the Last Supper

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I would just like to add that it was here in this chapel in October 2005 that my parents, Tina and Hugh, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows.  It was a very touching experience and a very special occasion.

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Sadly they have  since both passed away.  How I miss them so.

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Returning to the Cathedral – The ornate gilded dome and ceiling.

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Looking towards the rear of the church and the organ.

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A Fresco of St John the Baptist.

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Ornate Baroque Plasterwork and Gold Leaf.

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The organ which was built in 1737 by the Catarinozzi family.

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An ornate sarcophagus.

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During WWII and the heavy bombing of Atina by the Allies in 1943, the Cathedral was seriously damaged, the dome was destroyed and several works of art were also lost. In addition, sadly some paintings by the artist Luigi Velpi were stolen from the Cathedral in recent years.

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A big thank you to Monsignor Domenico Simeone who gave us a wonderful tour of the beautiful Cathedral, in perfect English.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

 

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