NAME: Church of St. Mary of the Castro
LOCATION: Castro Location
DESCRIPTION: This church, with an adjoining convent structure, stands in a striking spot on the mountain overlooking Praiano, 364 meters above sea level, along the slopes of Mount S. Angelo a Tre Pizzi.
The origin of the place of worship must go back a long way, given the presence inside the church of a stone altar, interpreted by scholars as a pagan altar. It is possible to surmise from the epiclesis “Castro” that a defensive or sighting structure arose in these same places, traceable to the castra system of the Duchy of Amalfi.
The church, dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, has five naves, built in various stages: in 1430 by papal concession the left nave was built, which preserves a precious fresco in the apse area. The fresco, on several registers, is still in good condition thanks to the protective function performed by a wall and stuccoes dating back to the 18th century, which covered it. In the basin area, the fresco shows the Blessing Christ, clearly of Byzantine derivation, flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul. In the lower band, there is a Madonna and Child, framed in a baldachin and surrounded by angels and saints, among whom a bishop is recognizable (an element that reveals two phases of creation) and perhaps Sts. John the Baptist (on the left below, some of the lay figures would be the commissioners). Scholars have pointed out that the fresco, although anonymous, reveals an artistic personality cast in the Renaissance cultural climate of southern Italy, with clear references on the one hand to Byzantine ductus and on the other to the painting of Piero della Francesca.
Next to the church, the two-story convent directly echoes the structure of the vaulted houses of the Amalfi suburban area: on the first floor are the refectory and the cistern, on the second floor are four cells, the kitchen and the oven; both levels have (after restoration that eliminated the later double-pitched roof) extradosed vaulted roofing.
The church was granted to the care of the Dominican order in 1599 (the deed of cession exists with the request as a counterpart for the reconstruction of the convent).
SEE, VISIT, FIND: The complex, located on the slopes of the mountain, is open in summer in the morning. In winter it is necessary to contact the parish of Praiano.
FRUITION DATA: None.
OPPORTUNITIES: It would be useful to create nature trails connecting the complex to the village, to make the site more usable.
SCALA G., I sentieri sacri, Praiano e Vettica Maggiore, Salerno 2001