Offida town centre hosts many historical churches, mostly situated near Piazza del Popolo. Within a short distance it is possible to visit them and appreciate their own characteristics.
THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF SS. MARIA ASSUNTA
This Church is called new Collegiate as it was built where the Trinity Oratory once stood. Its construction dates back to the end of 1700, on a design by Lazzaro Giosafatti and under the direction of Pietro Maggi. They reused some ruins from the demolition of Santa Maria della Rocca.
The main façade, which is a mixture of Greek, Roman and Baroque styles, is characterised by a big central lunette with a mosaic of Our Lady of Assumption added in 1950 for the centenary of the miracle in which Our Lady moved her eyes.
The interior, a Latin cross, is divided into three naves and in the middle, close to the apse, there is a cupola in the shape of a small peripteral temple. The aisles host several minor altars decorated with canvasses by well-known local artists.
The crypt hosts a small-scale cave of the Madonna of Lourdes, built in 1920 on a design by the master G. Leoni, using remains from Mount Ascensione. It is a very evocative place for worship and prayer.
THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS
Built in the 15th century, it is situated near the Town Hall. The structure is characterised by an arcade with two fine stone windows above. The single-nave interior has a ceiling decorated by the artist S. Nardi from Fermo. The church plays a very important role at Easter as it hosts the nineteenth-century coffin of the Dead Christ, carried in procession on Good Friday.
THE SUFFRAGE CHURCH OR CHURCH OF DEATH
It is located near the church of our Lady of Sorrows. The façade displays the signs of two small walled-up doors dating back to the 14th century and the trace of the original entrance of St. Anthony’s church, on the left side of which the remains of an old fresco by Simone De Magistris (1534-1600) representing St Anthony are still visible. The interior consists of three naves and was built in the 19th century. On the rear face, inside a niche, there is a wooden skeleton (1600) representing Death. In 1873 the temple was devoted to the Virgin Mary.
THE DIOCESAN SHRINE OF THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE
It is a massive brick structure built in the 14th century. The Baroque style of the present structure is the result of many changes the church underwent over the centuries. From the outer side overlooking Piazza Forlini, it is possible to admire some details of the fourteenth-century church, like the roman-gothic style arch friezes. The main façade is enriched with the monumental bronze portal, by the local sculptor Aldo Sergiacomi, dating back to 1994, which describes the donation by Longino D’Azzone to the Farfa Benedictines, the story of the Eucharistic Miracle and several Saints.
The interior of the church has a Latin-cross plan, a single nave, enriched with golden capitals. On the side walls there are several niches hosting statues of the Augustinian Saints and minor altars embellished with valuable canvasses. The high marble altar and the via crucis on the side walls are by the sculptor Aldo Sergiacomi. Behind the high altar there is the walnut eighteenth-century choir consisting in two rows of seats by the so called “Master of the Choirs”. From this point it is possible to enter the Chapel of the Eucharistic Miracle.
THE CHAPEL OF THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE
At the back of the apse there is the chapel that hosts the rests of the Eucharistic Miracle occurred in Lanciano in 1273, when Ricciarella, in order to appease her husband Giacomo Stasio, decided to mix his food with a powdered consecrated host which then turned into bleeding flesh. After long vicissitudes, the relics of the Miracle, officially recognised as such, are kept inside this church. They consist of a piece of host turned into flesh and blood, a 13th-century table-cloth, unique in its kind, and a blood-stained cup of the same period. The fragments of the host are kept inside a fourteenth-century silver cross created by a Venetian goldsmith. The relics are placed inside the chapel secured by an iron gate and two fifteenth-century walnut shutters. It is possible to admire them only on 3rd May, during the celebration of the Holy Cross Day.
ST. MARCO’S CHURCH AND MONASTERY
According to the local historian A. Rosini, this imposing structure was built few years after St. Francis’s death for the Franciscans. In 1655, thanks to the donation by the local lawyer Armellini for the establishment of a women’s convent, the Benedictine Nuns moved to and definitively settled in the monastery.
The Baroque church was built in 1738 under Monsignor Paolo Tommaso Manara, and it occupied the central part of the former Franciscan church. The interior hosts three altars enriched with three eighteen-century canvasses.
THE CHURCH OF ST. MARIA DELLA ROCCA
The Church of Santa Maria della Rocca, one of the most important monuments in Offida, stands on a site which was once considered outside the urban area. To its place, there was a Lombard castle and a small church belonging to Longino D’Azzone, a local gentleman of French-German origins.In 1039 the castle and the church were donated to the Farfa Abbey and thus to the Benedictine monks. As testified by an epigraph, in 1330 works began to demolish the castle and build a bigger church. The old church was comprised in the new one, thus creating some side passages still visible in the crypt, one of which was used as a burial ground since the 16th century.
The outer brick structure is crossed by travertine pilasters on the absidal side; in the middle of the main apse there is the crypt travertine portal, sculptured with fantastic spirals and animals. In the last decades other works have involved the building of a wall wing on the left side of the church and the demolition of surrounding dwellings to enhance visibility. Even the cliff on which the church stands has undergone many restorations over time to its present appearance, characterised by some spurs added in 1946 to give more stability.
Inside the crypt, which spreads along the entire area of the upper floor, there are several brick columns with corner-bevelled capitals supporting pointed and round arches. It still hosts a part of the frescos by the so called ‘Maestro of Offida’, portraying the lives of St. Catherine from Alessandria, St. Lucia and several other Saints and throne Virgins.
The single-nave upper church contains traces of frescos which once fully decorated the walls. The best preserved are those in the apsidal conch that portray prophets, angel players and Saint Virgins by the Master Ugolino di Vanne from Milan. On the left of the transept there are frescos portraying the life of St. Benedict from Norcia; the same side hosts The Madonna del Latte with St. Sebastian by Brother Marino Angeli. The front side is enriched with frescos depicting Christ’s Burial, the Crucifixion and a Madonna with Child and Saint, which is the only Renaissance fresco ascribed to Vincenzo Pagani.
THE CAPUCHINS’ CHURCH AND MONASTERY
This structure stands on the outskirts of Offida and was built when the Capuchins first arrived in the town. The construction of the church and the convent started in 1614, on the site where the old church of St. Pantaleo once stood. The present church dates back to 1893 and it was built on a design by Brother Angelo from Cassiano to honour the memory of Brother Bernardo who had lived there for a long time and where he died on 22nd August 1694.
Inside the church there is Brother Bernardo’s little chamber, where people gather in prayer.