Lanciano, ancient seat for fairs, has always stood out as a place of transit and meeting among different people ad it’s nowadays a destination testifying to the deep devotion of pilgrims coming from all over the world, attracted by the presence of the Eucharistic Miracle and by the beauty of its monumental heritage.
In the City of Lanciano, characterised by the presence of the most ancient Eucharistic Miracle of Christianity, exceptionally complete in Flesh and Blood, and by a deep spirituality that still finds an extraordinary expression in the celebrations of the Saint Patron’s festivity, the Holy Week rituals, the “Squilla” festival. Faith and art result to be so deeply connected that they create an indivisible union.
The 5th centenary of the creation of the Episcopal Seat in Lanciano, in 1515, represents an occasion to retrace, through objects, places and artists, the events of its history and to contribute to a higher knowledge of its extraordinary artistic heritage.
Besides being, of course, a point of reference for the spiritual life, the Episcopal Seat of Lanciano has been committed, for over five centuries, to the fields of arts and culture in general.
Bishops and Archbishops that have ruled it, have often been the commissioners of extraordinarily made artworks, which are also very important from the historical point of view, or among the promoters of initiatives destined to last in time and enter the local tradition.
When the first Bishop Mons. Angelo Maccafani arrived in Lanciano in 1515, he was welcomed in the small but ancient Chiesa dell’Annunziata, upgraded to Cathedral. Nowadays, the Church has disappeared, demolished in 1814 to make the front of Madonna del Ponte Cathedral bigger and magnificent, but we still have the gothic portal integrated in the building currently hosting the Polo Culturale Ecclesiastico that includes the Diocesan Museum, the Historical Archive and the Diocesan Library. That same building that, since 1619, and apart from the short period of the French decade when it was used as Court of Appeals, had been seat of the Seminary founded by the Archbishop Francisco Romero, an institution that has been with no doubts fundamental for the high level formation of clergy.
He also brought to Lanciano, from the twin city Sulmona, the crosier, symbol of the Bishop’s status, that is still conserved and that shows, on the top, the emblems of the Bishop and those of the City of Lanciano which found, in the promotion to Diocesan Seat by Pope Leone X, the desired achievement of its ambitions and the recognition of its status of administrative centre of the Frentano area.
In the second half of the 16th century a particular importance was gained by Mons. Leonardo Marini, who was an important theologian in the Council of Trent and collaborated to the draft of the Catechismo Tridentino.
Between the 16th and the 17th centuries, another important Bishop was Mons. Paolo Tasso, whose figure is still alive in the memory of all the Lancianeses since he’s connected to the institution of the “Squilla”. In 1601 he commissioned to Tommaso Alessandrino the Altar Piece of the Last Supper, now in Madonna del Ponte Cathedral, and we also owe to his generosity the presence of the relics of the Holy Thorn and Saint Pantaleon’s Blood with the precious reliquaries they are in.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Mons. Lorenzo Mongiò Galatino blessed the construction of the bell tower, nowadays symbol of the City; among his successors Mons. Andrea Gervasi was the first one who tried to give a better collocation to the relics of the Eucharistic Miracle, while Francesco Antonio Carafa promoted the construction of Saint Gaetan’s Chapel connecting the Seminary to the Episcope.
During the 18th century, Archbishop Antonio Ludovico Antinori, besides being the head of the Frentano church, was also a very important intellectual figure whose historical studies and whose archival and epigraphic researches still represent today a primary and unique source for the study and the reconstruction of past events.
In the fields of arts, instead, an important name is the one of Mons. Giacomo Lieto of the Dukes of Polignano, Archbishop of Lanciano between 1754 and 1769 who had the Madonna del Ponte Church restored and adorned, and commissioned the dress covering the statue of the Saint Patron and many other interventions that still testify today to his very high artistic sensitivity.
Similar tastes and sensitivity must have characterised Mons. Francesco Maria de Luca, Archbishop from 1818 to 1939 who provided the chapter with a rich library and the Cathedral with a series of rich vestments that are still conserved and are among the pieces the Diocesan Museum is prouder of, together with the original silk embroidered drape that he left to the Cathedral in his will.
In the 20th century, Mons. Pietro Tesauri was an extremely important spiritual figure during the difficult years of the second World War, still remembered today for his being close to people and whose commitment was no doubts at the basis of the protection of the artistic heritage during the long months of devastation that broke the Diocesan territory in two.
Mons. Enzio d’Antonio, Archbishop emeritus, is definitely worth being remembered for the reorganization and the reevaluation of the great Diocesan artistic heritage. Under his rule, many important restoration works were realised to the advantage of the architectural heritage that includes one hundred and six worship places; the Archive and the Diocesan Library have been opened up and the inventory of the Diocesan artistic heritage has been started, and this has also allowed the creation of the two museum seats in Lanciano and Ortona.