The humble beauty of Stilo’s Cattolica
The Cattolica in Stilo, Reggio Calabria, is a Byzantine church that makes this part of Southern Italy look like “a Thebaid of anchorites and hermits, of monks dedicated to daily work in the fields or in the woods, or held captive by solitary, heavenly visions” – to say it with Augusto Placanica, who in his “Storia della Calabria dall’antichità ai giorni nostri” (Meridiana Libri, Catanzaro 1993) explains that churches like this one “don’t let anything show from the outside, if not an extremely simple roundness made of small domes and apses, as if imbued with ground and moss.”
Stilo’s Cattolica – literally “Catholic”, implying the church was equipped with a baptistery, and therefore more important in churches’ pecking order – was built on a hill that overlooks the village between the 9th and 10th centuries, when Calabria was under Byzantium’s control. Its cubical, brick structure has a Greek cross plan, three apses jutting out to the sea, and five domes looking up toward the sky.
And despite its importance, its humble beauty “imbued with ground and moss” is what truly impresses those lucky enough to visit it.