In a small town of the Roman countryside, called Capranica Prenestina, we found an authentic jewel: it is the church dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena (it was she, the one who was a concubine then converted after having known Jesus). The church reserves us many surprises and it was exciting to visit it led by the priest himself.
Capranica Prenestina is located on the ridge of one of the highest peaks of the Prenestini Mountains, the mountainous territory that forms part of the Roman countryside. The town is located just over 900 meters above sea level and has fewer than 350 inhabitants.
In our explorations of the territory, always looking for news to tell, Capranica, however small, has given us not a few surprises. Starting from a small church, which dominates the main square on one side, up to the wonderful church of Santa Maria Maddalena, located at the highest point of the town.
Things to do and see in Capranica Prenestina
Among other things, it is also part of Capranica Prenestina the inhabited fraction of Guadagnolo and with it the Sanctuary of Mentorella, favourite place of Pope John Paul II. Right from the sanctuary, you can access several trekking routes of the Roman countryside, including the Karol Wojtyla path.
If you are in Capranica, do not forget to visit the Naturalistic Museum of Monti Prenestini, a museum of the highest quality that will prove to be a valuable training course for children who will not get bored, so many are the ideas and curiosities able to attract their attention.
Before starting to talk about our visit to the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, let us finish the discourse on the small sanctuary of the main square, the church of the Sanctuary of the “Madonna delle Fratte“. It is a very small and simple church, but it is worth visiting just to admire a fresco, discovered under a plaster, which represents the Madonna who suckles the baby. So far nothing striking if it were not for the fact that the Madonna shows a naked breast, a rare detail in religious painting.
Unfortunately, the fresco remains little. The face of the Madonna has been lost and of the total picture, only the child attached to the breast remains.
The Church of Santa Maria Maddalena
That day in July of last year, we arrived in Capranica Prenestina, backpack and camera.
After having explored the country we arrive at the highest point, intrigued by the sight of a large bramante dome that stood majestically dominating the landscape and breaking it from its shape typical of the mountain municipalities made of stone.
Climbing up to the dome can seem tiring due to the uphill path. In reality the distance to travel is short and you can take advantage to enjoy the architecture of this country, once a fief of the Colonna family since 1252, with a brief interruption of 6 years, between 1497 and 1503, in which it was governed by the Borgia family, and subsequently belonged to the Capranica family.
When you reach the top, the dome partially disappears from view, obscured by the presence of the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena and the bell tower that stands on its side. In front of the church, a courtyard completely paved in stone, with an ancient well in the center.
Unfortunately, the church was closed. A bit ‘of discouragement invaded us but immediately gave way to the joy of knowing the pastor, who after a few minutes had arrived with other people and who offered himself with sincere enthusiasm to be our guide.
The experience was beautiful, so much to feel advised to include a visit to this church of Capranica Prenestina, in your tours of the Roman countryside.
The interior of the church
As soon as you enter, the church immediately makes a leap to the heart for its simple beauty. But the greatest emotion is to discover the details that it has jealously guarded for centuries.
Immediately to the left we find an ancient mechanism that made the bell tower clock work. A series of big rusty gears, whose movement was governed by large stone weights.
It is a machine built in 1780 called “a hen-house”, hand-worked in wrought iron. Just think how much skill the designer and locksmith had at the end of the eighteenth century built this precision instrument for measuring time (in the town of Saracinesco they know something about it and soon we hope to talk about it).
Soon after we find the statue of a lion made nothing less than by Michelangelo Buonarroti, whose wide mouth wide open, has been used in the past as a holy water font.
The whole church is decorated with finely crafted stuccos, in an explosion of graceful shapes that amaze the visitor.
But it is under the stuccoes that there is a further surprise. From exploratory surveys carried out by cultural heritage, it emerged that the current plaster (although beautiful) of the church, covers other decorations, all made of marble by hand. A true wonder that unfortunately will never see the light completely because even the current plaster is considered of high historical / artistic value.
The surprises do not end here. To highlight the ancient church organ that, when we were there, was being restored. Currently the restoration is completed and can be admired in all its beauty.
There are many details that have impressed us, which, told by the kind priest, have taken the form of an engaging and exciting narration.
From the painting on the ceiling of the church that represents the Magdalene that ascends in the sky with naked breasts, to very special religious relics, like a child Jesus with clear medieval invoices. And then the ancient stoup placed in a niche and surmounted by a wonderful fresco, ancient manuscripts not yet well codified and several signs that leave you thinking of a passage of the templars …
We wil stop with our story not to ruin the taste of surprise. There are so many things to see and know … We are waiting for you here, in the countryside of Rome, to let you know.