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Cascia is a small town about 20 kilometres from Norcia in the south-east of the Umbria region of central Italy.
We start our tour of Cascia in Piazza Garibaldi with the church of San Francesco, of Gothic-style that was built in the 15th century by Bishop Antonio Elemosina on the remains of an earlier church and monastery of the 13th century.
The façade of the church is characterized by a portal surmounted by a lunette with a 15th century fresco and a ceiling rose.
The interior has a Latin cross form and 18th century stuccoes and decorations, a 14th-century wooden choir and numerous paintings and works such as the "Ascension" of 1596, attributed to Niccolò Circignani* (known as “Pomarancio”). This was the last work of Pomarancio.
Leaving from the Porta Orientale you arrive at the Church of Saint Antonio Abate and an adjacent former Benedictine monastery.
The church was rebuilt in the 14th-15th century, and includes some frescoes such as the "stories of the Holy", attributed to the so-called Maestro della Dormitio*.
Also of exceptional artistic value in Cascia is the monumental wooden group of Tobiolo. The sculpture, dating from the late 15th century, has recently been attributed to Domenico Indivini (1445-1502), whose activity had until this time been limited to the inlay of the choir of the Upper church of San Francesco in Assisi.
Tobiolo was described as a “very excellent author of marquetries” and the "famous author of marquetries and wood carvings, which perpetuated his reputation with the wonderful artistic wooden choirs of Sanseverino, Camerino and Assisi "(See Raoul Paciaroni, “Lorenzo d'Alessandro detto il Severinate”, 2001 , p. 51).
In the former monastery there is a sequence of "Scenes from the Passion of Christ" in the choir attributed to Nicola di Ulisse from Siena.
Re-entering Cascia from Porta Leonina you now find the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, built in the 4th-6th centuries and restored several times; however the original Romanesque structure is still partly visible.
The façade is characterized by a pediment and two portals (16th-17th century) and the interior contains works by artists such as Nicola di Ulisse, and Gaspare* and Camillo Angelucci* (1540-1585).
Another important work here is the "Madonna of the Rosary", by Nicolò Frangipane (16th century), who worked in Emilia and in the last years of his activity was based in Cascia, where he painted another Madonna of the Rosary along with the Mysteries.
Saint Rita of Cascia
And now we come to one of the most famous shrines of Italy, that of Saint Rita of Cascia. The façade of her sanctuary is characterized by a coating of travertine and two bell towers and some reliefs on the sides of the portal by Eros Pellini* (1909-1993), depicting episodes from the life of the saint.
Dozens of biographies and critical studies have been written about Saint Rita but in reality we know little about her life and only a small amount of information is historically established.
Also noteworthy is "The Triumph of the Cross," by Silvio Consadori (1909-1994), painted in 1951 and in the Chapel of Santa Rita where the body of the saint is kept in a glass urn. The left apse of the chapel of Saint Rita was painted by Ferruccio Ferrazzi (1891-1978).
The vault of the chapel is painted with figures of Augustinian Saints by Fermo Taragni (1871-1947) and in the Chapel of the Assumption, there are some frescoes by Gisberto Ceracchini* from Foiano della Chiana (1899-1982).
In the Chapel of the Sacrament you can see the Last Supper, a fresco by Luigi Filocamo, an artist of stained-glass windows particularly appreciated for his masterly works.
The altar has a series of sculptures by Giacomo Manzù and the sanctuary was totally renovated in 1981 to commemorate the sixth centenary of the birth of Santa Rita.
The altar, the candlesticks, the pulpit, the cross and the tabernacle are works in gilded bronze by Giacomo Manzù, that is Giacomo Manzoni* (1908-1991), born in Bergamo and protagonist of the revival of the Sacred Italian art.
Near the Basilica is the 12th century Monastery of Saint Rita.
Other Cascia monuments
On the top of the hill is the church of St. Augustine, built in 1059 by Pope Nicholas II (died 1061). The Gothic-style façade was executed by the famous “Maestri Comacini” in 1380.
Among the many frescoes we mention the "Madonna della Cintola" by Virgilio Nucci*.
We conclude our visit to Cascia with the Pieve di San Pietro (Reggello), a Romanesque structure built with blocks of sandstone. The most important art work here is the central panel of the triptych of St. Juvenal, an early work by Masaccio* (1401-1428).
Attractions near Cascia
Continuing our tour of the artworks of Cascia you should also take the time to enjoy the typical landscapes of the region around the town that clings to a spur overlooking the valley of the river Corno.
Together with the countryside we believe that the great Umbrian tradition should be savoured in all its aspects. The territory of Cascia is rich in black truffles, as in Norcia, and also with almonds, apples, walnuts, mushrooms, and anchovies with garlic, lightly browned with oil. No less pleasing are the charcuterie risotto, spaghetti with truffles, the charcuterie and truffle omelette.
* For more details about these artists please see historical Italian artists.
See also history of Cascia
You can find more local travel ideas in the Umbria guide.