Ancient squares in Ascoli Piceno: San Gregorio square
In the heart of the historic center of Ascoli Piceno, towards Via Tornasacco (nearby Piazza Arringo), which follows the ancient layout of a Roman “strata”, there is a small square surrounded by a suggestive sequence of medieval buildings. These tower-houses show the overlapping of architectural forms and styles ranging from the twelfth to the fourteenth century.
The square takes its name from the ancient Church of San Gregorio Magno, which shows the original structure of a classic tetrastyle temple of the late Roman Republican age. The east wall (made in the “opus quasi reticulatum” technique) and the two fluted corner pillars are still visible, so as the cell and the two fluted columns with Corinthian capitals in the medieval facades.
The popular name of “Tempio di Vesta” comes from a dedicatory inscription attested by the historian Andreantonelli which says: “in memory of his daughter Vesta Celerina, Tito the Emperor erected a portico for the Goddesses of Ascoli…”.
Pope St. Gregory the Great promoted the transition of the temple, from pagan to Christian worship, to avoid the systematic spoliation of the ancient pagan buildings.
The single nave inside the Church is the result of the union of two parts: the pronaos and the cell of the ancient temple with diaphragm arches supporting the wooden framework of the roof.
Some valuable fragments of the thirteenth-century “fresco” decoration are still visible on the walls. The fresco depicting “The Sermon to Birds” (an episode from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi) is very significant and is a sort of re-enactment of the sermon to young people that occurred in Ascoli in 1215.
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AUTHOR: Prof. Giorgio Giorgi, art historian