SS. Felice and Mauro Abbey
Distance from postignano
The Valnerina is inextricably linked to the origins of Western monasticism for having accepted, according to an ancient tradition, 300 monks from Syria in the 5threfugees century. Mauro and his son Felice were among these exemplary "refugees", who took shelter in a cave upon which the present abbey would then have risen. According to legend, the two hermits killed a dragon that infested the marsh, as depicted in the frieze below the rose window of the present church: this is a myth that alludes to the presence of such anchorites who, having taken refuge close to water springs and guarding important communication road, reclaimed and made fertile the marshy lands that hosted them.
The present church was built before 1194 as a monumental evolution of that ancient monastic garrison and the sacred remains of Felice and Mauro were placed in a pink stone sarcophagus now preserved in the crypt. With a single nave and a strongly raised presbytery, the church was restored to its original form in a radical restoration of the 1920s. It is in the façade that the original traits of the Romanesque style of the Spoleto area are better captured, a style that inspired its style and of which it represents one of the finest examples: a simple double recessed portal with a full arch, the bare tympanum decorated by the symbol of the Agnus Dei, the double-round window with the symbols of the Evangelists and above all the narrative frieze below. Here the story of the two mythical founders is staged, in particular Saint Felice killing the dragon that infested the valley and then planting a stick which then sprouted, representing the achieved fertility of the lands.
The interior space is striking for its bare sobriety, which owes much to the modern restoration. However, it is worth noting the structure - typical of the Spoleto Romanesque - of the raised presbytery, in this case delimited by stone columns in cosmatesco style and by labyrinth mosaics. The modern restoration has freed the space from stuccoes and altars of the Baroque period, enabling the appreciation of some ancient frescoes: an Adoration of the Magi (first half of the 15th century), San Michele Arcangelo with the scales of divine justice in one hand and the spear to pierce the demonic dragon in the other, San Felice in the act of killing the dragon with the inscription now almost illegible "Hoc opus fecit fieri prior de denarris cuiusdam mulieris de Rocchecta", 1467 and Christ blessing with angels, in the apse calotte, a work by the Master of Eggi (1440-1450), a yet to be named painter very active in this part of Umbria. After having noticed the ancient burials and a couple of Roman re-employment epigraphs, it is worth leaving the room of the church to enter the crypt below through the clearly visible side stairs: here, in a bipartite structure perhaps linked to the memory of the two hermits, it is the sarcophagus of the two "founding" saints of the abbey.
A few steps from the abbey runs the Nera river; beyond the bridge that crosses it is the environmental education center of San Marco. A part of the abbey is now an accommodation facility, with hotel and restaurant, while in front of it there is an organic farm and B&B that organises naturalistic excursions, trekking on foot, by bike and with donkeys.