Bagnoregio Stories and Tips

The Church of San Donato and the Infiorata

Simple Renaissance church Photo, Bagnoregio, Italy

The Church of San Donato is the only "sight" in Civita, if it can be called that. Located according to tradition on the Main Piazza, it isn't elegant or ornate. It boasts no great art, famous relics, or fabulous stained glass, and it's on no one's list of significant architectural achievements. It resembles in architectural style many of the Renaissance churches of Florence, but it is utterly stark and unadorned. Inside it's dim and simple, with a faint damp and chalky smell. Nonetheless, it's a very old building, and it's a heartfelt place. There is a leisurely restoration project proceeding at the glacial pace of much Italian reconstruction, hindered in part by very limited funds.

We happened to be in Civita on San Donato's feast day, August 17. San Donato of Ripacandida was a Benedictine monk who died in 1198 at the age of 19. His feast day is celebrated in a tradition unique, so far as I know, to Umbria, the infiorata. This involves making elaborate designs with flower petals and leaves on the floor of the church. All the petals and leaves must be from native plants in their natural colors. Most of the dim aisles were filled with beautiful arrangements which, even when simple, must have taken quite a while to assemble. This is nowhere near as elaborate as a similar annual festival held in Spello in June. For Spello's infiorata, which draws crowds of tourists, designs are laid out over many of the town's streets in a competition; those judged winners are honored by being trod over as part of the holy procession to the church. Civita's much simpler festival, however, is for Civita alone.

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