The Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria was founded in 871 by Emperor Louis II, near the city of Pescara in Abruzzo. The church was dedicated to and housed the remains of Saint Clement, one of the first popes after Saint Peter and first Apostolic Father of the Roman Catholic Church. The abbey was pillaged many times, leading to its reconstruction in the twelfth century, under Abbot Leonate, in the Romanesque style. The abbey is well known for its medieval sculptural carvings depicting the building’s history and the story of Saint Clement. The central doorway is extensively engraved with these figural portrayals on both the lintel and the tympanum. The body in the middle of the tympanum is Saint Clement with Saints Fabio and Cornelius to the right and Abbot Leonate to the left holding a rebuilt model of the abbey. Other elements that characterize the artistic uniqueness of the abbey are the ornate bronze doors from 1191 (featuring depictions of castles and abbots as well as geometric patterns), the high altar, a paleo-Christian sarcophagus, the Paschal candelabrum, and an ambon (a small pulpit located before the choir in Byzantine medieval churches). The overall layout of the monument is in the shape of a Latin cross divided into three naves with a semicircular apse. The exterior is articulated by a portico with columns that form three arches in front of the façade.
How We Helped
In April 2009, a powerful earthquake hit the Abruzzo region and damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings. The abbey’s tympanum collapsed into the nave, damaging the ambon and the Paschal candelabrum. To prevent the structure from collapsing again, temporary scaffolding and shoring were installed over the ambon and paschal candelabrum. WMF worked with Fondazione Pescarabruzzo, the Commissario per la Ricostruzione in Abruzzo, and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici per l’Abruzzo to create a master plan for the conservation of the abbey. Project documentation and conditions assessments preceded the site work, which began in 2010. The restoration project finished in early 2011 and a reopening ceremony was held on April 8 of that year.
Why It Matters
The disaster that struck Abruzzo in 2009 destroyed many of the region’s cultural heritage sites, creating an urgent need for the recovery of these historic structures. The conservation of the Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria is part of WMF’s long term commitment to maintaining Italy’s cultural heritage and an example of our extraordinary disaster relief efforts. The Romanesque façade and tympanum with detailed sculptural depictions of the abbey’s history make it a rare and significant piece of architecture, creating a visual narrative that is enriching and in great need of long-term conservation.