Santa Maria di Cartignano: church on the road
Santa Maria di Cartignano, in Bussi sul Tirino, Abruzzo, is probably an old “street church”: a place of worship along one of the roads on the transhumance route – the so-called ‘tratturi’ – along which shepherds constantly moved their herds between Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata and Apulia, from the hills in the North to the plains in the South during the fall, and in the opposite direction for spring and summer.
Gabriele D’Annunzio, born in Pescara, remembered these paths covered in grass and rocks in his poem “The Shepherds”:
They take the path their fathers’ fathers took, / the old drove-road, which bears them to the plain / as if upon a silent current of grass. Every “silent current” was dotted with villages, post stations, inns, fountains, sacred images, and churches – like this one.
Santa Maria di Cartignano emerged from the ground in the past century after having been covered by alluvial debris. It was built before the 11th century, and still features some Romanesque and Gothic traits. We can imagine it gave a welcome spiritual respite to “commuters” of pastoralism from a thousand years ago, and was an oasis of peace for wanderers.