SAINTS PHILLIP AND JAMES CHURCH IN CASTIGLIONE
“A fraction situated between two municipalities.”
Arriving at the Church of Saints Philip and James means walking along one of the most beautiful footpaths on the Coast. Starting from Ravello, you proceed along the ancient road that connected the mountain town to the sea, from which you can enjoy unique landscapes and views. Then, walking among olive trees and vineyards through stairs carved into the rock, you can realize how tiring and difficult it was for man to inhabit and cultivate these places, apparently so impervious.
Even the location of the Church of Saints Philip and James, perched on Punta Civita’s sides, is a demonstration of how the terrain did not facilitate man’s life.
The building, in fact, stands on a rock ridge that directly faces the sea. From here, it is possible to admire the same scenery that was a source of inspiration for the Dutch artist Escher.
It was precisely the beauty and quietness of this place that prompted the ancient inhabitants of Ravello back in the 10th century to build the Benedictine women’s monastery of Santa Maria di Castiglione, intended to house the daughters of Ravello’s noble families. The church and the cenoby had great fortune and wealth at the time, thanks precisely to its strategic location. The religious institute, in fact, had full control of the trade and fishing that took place in the marina of Castiglione and, due to this, the monastery was no stranger to disputes with the neighboring communities of Amalfi and Atrani.
The change of dedication (Saints Philip and James) in 1453 coincided with the closure of the monastery, which during the period between the 14th and 15th centuries experienced a real decline. The number of nuns, in fact, tended to decrease more and more as time went on until 1453, when Pope Nicholas V finally closed the structure, which was absorbed by the diocese of Ravello.
The period of decline, however, was not destined to stop. In fact, until the 17th century there was a progressive degradation of the structure, close to collapse, and the spoliation of the furnishings in the building. This situation, fortunately, came to an end between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, thanks to the contribution of the Monastery of St. Clare (which financed the restoration of the building) and the willingness of a parish priest from Atrani, who offered to guard the church and celebrate mass there periodically.
Since then, the church has been placed under the guardianship of the parish of the nearby municipality of Atrani, which can be reached by climbing a staircase also carved into the rock. This meant that the inhabitants of Castiglione had the small neighboring village as their point of reference rather than the main town of Ravello, which is almost 5 kilometers away from the fraction.