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Ferentino is a city very rich in ancient religious buildings and well worth a visit. It is situated in the eastern part of the Lazio region of central Italy.
The city is surrounded by a complex wall which is the result of several successive layers made at different times and with different technologies. The foundations and lower part of the wall consists of polygonal, square or large boulders, the higher parts are mingled with a more regular structure from the medieval walls.
Among the various gates that open into the walls and give access to old Ferentino the best known is the “Bloody Gate”, located in the oldest part of Ferentino - according to tradition it owes its name to a massacre that occurred in Roman times.
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
You can begin a visit at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, built in gothic style in the 13th century by Cistercian monks. Austere and elegant, it is embellished with three rosettes, a pointed arch portal and many other ornaments, some of unusual appearance.
The two sculptures on the left portal of the church show the faces of Frederick II of Swabia and Constance of Sicily (1154-1198) and are taken to be a sign of the good relations between the Cistercian monks and the emperor.
The church was restored in 1241 - the previous building was not completely demolished, but a new part was built with the apse and transept in the 'new' Gothic- Burgundy style. The façade was also raised and enriched with a central rose window and two other roses on the side doors, and it was also decorated with a pointed arch portal.
The church interior, with three naves, is very solemn. The front is typically romanesque while the area of the transept and apse clearly shows a gothic style, with clustered pillars and cross-vaults. The church contains many medieval sculptures and various inscriptions.
Church of Santa Maria
It was during the same period that the Church of Santa Maria of the “Gaudenti” was built.
This church is mentioned for the first time in 1249 in some documents of Innocent IV (1195-1254) where it is listed as “Ecclesia S. Maria Gaudenti Ferentinatis”. The name derives from the “Gaudenti” Knights to whom it belonged, together with the nearby Palace with which it is traditionally associated.
Built on the site of an ancient pagan temple, the church has a single nave covered by vaults. In one of the four chapels there is a painting of "Saint Catherine della Ruota" by Giorgini (19th century), and on the floor outside the entrance there is a North Star with eight points - this symbol refers to a mysterious figure linked to esoteric medieval concepts such as the balance of energy.
Palace of the Gaudenti Knights
Near this church in Ferentino you can also see the Palace of the Gaudenti Knights that belonged to the Order of the Knights of Maria Gloriosa, formed by militant monks that were appointed to act as peacemakers between the Italian families. This order has affinities with the Order of the Knights Templar.
Church of San Pancrazio
The small church of San Pancrazio dates from before the 11th century and once belonged to the Monastery of Montecassino. Its name is engraved on the bronze doors (“San Pancratius in Ferentinu”). Originally the church had three aisles but now it has a single nave: one was demolished in 1795 because it threatened to collapse and the other is incorporated in the nearby Ruggeri-Bossi Palace.
The church is known for its marble altar frontal and the elegant capitals embedded in the walls, an example of Cistercian sculpture. The façade was restored, but the access stairway is original and dates back to the original building.
Other places of interest in Ferentino
Also worth seeing in Ferentino is the so-called “Roman Market”, dating from the 2nd-1st century BC. It consists of a deck which opens through arches onto five shops on the side covered with barrel vaults.
Also noteworthy is the Monastery of St. Anthony, founded by Celestine V. The mortal remains of Celestine were held here for several years before they were transferred to the nearby church of St. Agate - from which the inhabitants of Aquila then stole them to carry them to the abbey of Collemaggio. Celestine's heart remains in Ferentino, where it is guarded in the Monastery of Poor Clare.
The Latin poet Horace came to Ferentino very often because, he said, the place was quiet and away from the noise of the city: "If you love peace, and you like to sleep, and instead you hear the dust, the noise of wagons and inns, I suggest you stay in Ferentino".
Attrcations near Ferentino
Besides the tranquility, near Ferentino there are also the Pompeius Baths, the sulphurous-bicarbonate calcium waters of which were known by the Romans as a health spa.
See also history of Ferentino
You can find more local travel ideas in the Rome - Lazio guide.