Little Churches on the road to Castello S. Niceto


castello niceto 2

Already along the pathway, as we approach the base of the Castle, we come across the ruins of a number of little churches. The first one to be seen (providing the grass and other vegetation have been cut), stands to the left on a level higher than the path itself, is the fourteenth-century church of Sant’Antonio [St. Anthony]. Its measurements of 5 × 7 metres, are based on the notion of the golden rectangle [a rectangle that may be divided into a square and a rectangle having the same length-breadth ratio as the original]. The apsidal wall contains both an externally-protruding central apse, with a slightly pointed arch, and two smaller lateral apses, hollowed out of the thick wall, and acted as the church’s prothesis and diaconicòn. Traces of colour in various areas of the walls suggest that the church was completely frescoed.

In the prothesis it is possible to distinguish the figure of Saint Anthony. Continuing on our way, after a few score metres, an opening on the right-hand side of a house, leads to a small clearing. This is where the ancient town of San Niceto once stood. On top of a pile of stones, caused by the collapse of the church, it is possible to see traces of the apse of the thirteenth-century church of San Panteleone.

At the end of the pathway, where it joins the road leading to the castle, stands a church which may have been dedicated to San Nicola della Porta [ St. Nicholas of the Gateway]. Built, most probably, in the ninth century it too is of modest proportions; its internal breadth is slightly less than 6 metres, and visible thanks only to the remains of masonry belonging to the apsidal area. A stretch of wall separating the nave from the sanctuary is of relevance.

A few steps farther on, at the beginning of the road leading up to the castle, we come across the ruins of the thirteenth/fourteenth-century church of Santa Maria Annunziata [Our Lady of the Annunciation], considerably larger than other churches in the area, measuring approximately 18 x 7 metres on the inside.

The remaining masonry is that of the two corners of the western wall, where the doorway stood, and that belonging to the eastern wall whose ruined apse contains on the inside, a faded deesis [Byzantine image] and, on the outside a saw-tooth decoration.

We have now reached the castle, fortified by a massive wall on all sides except for the area facing southwest which probably collapsed during the earthquake of 1783. Like many mediaeval sites, it is shaped like a ship, its pointed end facing the marina. Built in the Byzantine period, it was responsible, along with the other fortifications of Calanna, for defending the territory and city of Reggio from Arab raids during the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the Norman period the manor was modified a number of times and again during the Swabian age. One notices, in particular, in the central part of the esplanade a curtain wall providing a second defence line to protect the keep. The central tower with its slanting escarpment contains a water cistern, which goes to show that the occupants of the castle were equipped to withstand long sieges. In the northern wall, facing Reggio, there is a tower that probably safeguarded a secondary entrance. We do not know what this gate was called, but it resembles that of the nearby Motta Sant’Agata and those of many of our ancient mediaeval castles with a main entrance facing inward, known as the ground-level gateway, and others in the side escarpments. Those facing the sea were called marine gateways. Inside the fortress, to the north of the keep and in the vicinity of the northern palace, we find the ninth-century church of San Niceto. It is modest in size, a rectangle measuring about 6.5 × 4.5 metres, with a southern entrance and an apse protruding externally.

The height of the remaining masonry does not permit us to establish the existence or not of a prothesis and diaconicòn in the apsidal wall.

The Description of the church is by Sebastiano Maria Venoso and has been taken from “Portpàtima” edited by Alfonso Picone Chiodo, Edizioni Apodiafazzi 2015.

LocalitaMontebello Jonico
Tipo Risorsachiese

how to reach us

Da Reggio Calabria, seguendo la tangenziale in direzione sud uscite a San Gregorio. Salite verso Croce Valanidi.
Un km dopo ma prima di Oliveto s’incontra la deviazione a destra che attraversa la fiumara Valanidi (subito dopo fontana presso acquedotto loc. Cuzzetta) e in 3 km di stradina tortuosa e stretta giungete a Paterriti.