An itinerary through the provinces of Rimini and Forlì among monasteries, abbeys and parish churches, whose events are often linked to those of great Saints who, in their wanderings, have characterized the history of the places, performing some miracles and giving life to sites of great spirituality.
Let's start from the center of Rimini, where we find the most important of the Augustinian monasteries, dedicated, however, to St. John the Evangelist, and founded in 1200.
The architecture of its great hall was transformed and enriched by valuable stuccoes, altarpieces and frescoes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but its general structure and its high bell tower are still those of the thirteenth century.
It is one of the largest churches in the city and in the apse and in the chapel of the bell tower, some of the best evidence is preserved of the 14th-century Rimini school of painters.
Moving towards Santarcangelo di Romagna we come across the oldest parish church in Rimini, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, patron saint of the city. The construction of the building dates back to the 6th century and has the style of the Byzantine churches of Ravenna.
It looks like a building with a single nave with highly calibrated proportions and a bright interior, with the typical features of 6th-century Ravenna-Byzantine art, such as the polygonal apse, the thin brick masonry, the arched windows.
Today it has been stripped of the mosaic floor and marble decorations, of which only a few fragments remain. The place is still very evocative and invites one to recollect and meditate.
A few kilometers further on brings us to the foot of the Verucchio hill, where a hermitage once stood. Here St. Francis of Assisi stopped and performed some miracles.
The hermitage was transformed into a convent, dating back to 1215 and is thought to be the oldest Franciscan building in Romagna.
A chapel was built in the place where the Saint's cell was located. The church has a 14th-century portal and a neoclassical interior, with an inlaid Renaissance choir.
At Villa Verucchio there is also the ancient Parish church of Saint Martin, with rustic Romanesque-Gothic architecture, dating back to around the year 990.
The Parish church stands on a slope shaded by olive trees at the foot of the rocky outcropping on which Verucchio lies.
Also worth a visit is the Monastery of Saint Lawrence in Talamello, an ancient parish church and convent of the Augustinians since 1300, where there is a crucifix attributed to Giotto but actually done by Giovanni da Rimini.
This crucifix repeatedly became the protagonist of inexplicable healings and is therefore considered miraculous.
We move on to San Leo where the Convent of Sant’Igne stands, dating back to the 13th century and is said to have been founded by Saint Francis. The small church, with a single hall, retains a segment of the trunk of the elm tree under which Francis preached to Saint Leo, demolished in 1662.
To the side of the church there is a simple but charming cloister and on the east side is the chapter house typical of the Gothic style.
In San Leo we can also find the Franciscan Convent of Montemaggio, organized around two cloisters and characterized by an underground ice house, and the 11th century Parish church dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest religious monument in Montefeltro.
Tradition has it that the building was built on the cell where St. Leo withdrew in prayer. The parish church has a basilica plan with three naves, with a crypt and raised presbytery, on which the prized 9th-century ciborium stands.
We emigrate to the province of Forlì-Cesena where, on a hill in the municipality of Mercato Saraceno stands the Parish Church of Santa Maria Annunziata di Monte Sorbo, the first news of which dates back to 1223, even if the date of foundation was probably as early as the 8th century AD.
It even seems that the place already hosted a temple consecrated to the goddess Ceres in Roman times. The only church in the area to have the plan of a Greek cross, it appears to the visitor as a modest and isolated rural church, immersed in the silence of the surrounding countryside.
The building assumed considerable importance beginning in the tenth century both because Bishop Florentius is buried there and because, during the Middle Ages, the Savio valley was a popular route for the Romei (Byzantine Greeks or Greek-speaking Eastern Romans).
The outside of the building appears rather modest but the facade is embellished with ancient salvaged marbles; the entrance consists of a simple portal while the steps are made of tombstones.
On the walls of the two side aisles, we can note numerous remains of sculptures showing plant, zoomorphic and geometric shapes while on the left aisle there are tombstones and the epigraph of the ancient bishop Florentius.
We move towards Sarsina where, about 4 km from the town in the direction of Montalto, stands the Abbey of San Salvatore in Summano, of very ancient origins, perhaps even prior to the year 1000.
The Abbey, which up until the end of the 12th century followed the Benedictine Rule before moving towards the Camaldolese one, over the centuries also enjoyed the protection of various Popes who ensured it wealth and power.
The church has quite a simple structure with a single nave that opens into a circular apse at the end. The external walls and the graceful bell tower are almost intact, while the roof has completely collapsed.
However, there are few decorative elements inside, since most of them were removed to prevent them from being stolen.
The last leg of our journey takes us near Galeata, on the top of the hill overlooking the town, to visit the Abbey of Sant'Ellero, a Romanesque abbey that preserves the mortal remains of the saint.
Founded by the Saint himself towards the end of the fifth century AD, throughout the centuries the abbey has exercised great political and spiritual influence over the entire Bidente valley.
Today the ancient monastery has been destroyed and only the abbey church remains, in Romanesque style, which has a portal decorated with capitals with sirens, a symbol of sin, and praying monks.
In the side chapels inside, there are some decorations and pieces of sculptures from the ancient building. In the crypt, however, the early medieval sarcophagus of the Saint is preserved which, during the month of May every year, seems to dispense blessings, as many pilgrims flock there especially for the healing of headaches.