The abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse or "delle Chiuse" is a Romanesque building located in San Vittore Terme in the municipality of Genga (Ancona), in an isolated position at the confluence of the Sentino river in the Esino, where it is possible to observe the beautiful Roman bridge and near the gorge and the caves of Frasassi is located in the small abbey village characterized by a quadrangular tower of medieval defense, giving the place the appearance of a "fortified citadel". It was declared a national monument in 1902.
The abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse History
Built as a Benedictine convent church of a monastic complex documented since 1007, its construction should date back to the period 1060-1080. It is one of the most important and ancient testimonies of Romanesque architecture in the Marche and despite heavy twentieth century restorations it still shows the original volumetric articulation. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the convent reached its period of greatest splendor, exercising jurisdiction over 42 churches and vast goods and territories. After a long decline, the abbey was suppressed in the 15th century; of the monastic complex only a few rooms remain.
The church, built in limestone, has a Greek cross plan inscribed in an almost square perimeter, with four columns that divide the church into nine spans covered by cross vaults apart from the central one on which a dome with an octagonal lantern is set, resting on the columns, with arches and trumpet plumes. There are five semicircular apses along the perimeter: one on each side and three on the east apsidal side. The facade is characterized by a low cylindrical tower and a high quadrangular tower which probably replaced the other cylindrical tower in the following epoch. The two towers and the compact volume help to give the church a fortress appearance.
Some characteristics of the church such as the Greek cross plan inscribed in a square, the arrangement of the apses, the facade with an atrium closed between two towers, almost forming a westwerk and the external decorative treatment with hanging arches, are shared by a well-defined group of extra-urban Marche churches, with a massive and almost cubic external volume. These are in particular the church of San Claudio al Chienti (believed to be the progenitor of the series), the abbey of Santa Maria delle Moie and the church of Santa Croce di Sassoferrato.
Generally the planimetric plan with central plan has been referred to a Byzantine influence. On the other hand, the substantial independence of the building from oriental models and its derivation instead from western models of Nordic origin, variously traceable in German, Norman, Lombard and Apulian churches has been supported. An influence of Lombard architecture could also be recognized in the sober treatment of the external wall surfaces, with blind arches and pilasters.
Inside, the structure is bare, except for a particular incision near the door to the left of the altar, which seems to represent an eight or a vertical infinity symbol of which no purpose or meaning is known. Some speculated that it may have been left by Templar knights.