The abbey of Santa Maria delle Moie, located in Moie (AN) in the Marche region, is an abbey dating back to the XII century. It represents a significant example of Romanesque architecture in the region. Now completely incorporated in the homonymous town, it initially stood outside the inhabited center on the left bank of the Esino river and along the ancient Via Flanbenga. The abbey is now a parish church, and is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary and the feast is celebrated every year on 8 September.
Moie, a town with about 5.500 inhabitants, is located in the middle valley of the Esino river. Land rich in tradition that is combined with the passion of a population still tied to its origins. The origin of the settlement is linked to the reclamation and colonization of the valley floor, to which the monks who founded the abbey of S. Maria gave the first impulse.
The abbey emblem of Moie, was located in the middle of the forest called Santa, on the edge of the left bank of the Esino, with the typical moja (marshy area) from which the name of the abbey itself and subsequently of the inhabited center. Another testimony of the locality was the Castrum Mollearum, located near the abbey, but of which no trace remains.
The abbey of Santa Maria delle Moie, located on the left bank of the Esino river and along the ancient via Flanbenga was probably founded at the beginning of the XIth century by the Attoni-Alberici-Gozoni family as a private monastery. Built in the midst of a vast forest, the abbey was the center of rebirth of the area. The abbey was located on the plain near an ancient marshy area that stretched along the Esino called molie from which the name derives: in a document of 1219 is in fact called Molie S. Mariae plani, with reference also to the flat area in which it was located. The abbey bordered a wooded area referred to as Silva Carpineta; not far away there was a bridge that allowed the passage on the right bank of the Esino river. In the XIth-XIIth centuries it received numerous donations: from the land register of 1295 it appears that Santa Maria delle Moie possessed an area of about one hundred and sixty-five hectares and four mills. The power of the Benedictine monastery grew however in the sec. XV when it reached an extension of four hundred twenty-eight hectares. The church was restored in
1524: a plaque on the western facade testifies to this. The restoration was perhaps motivated by the bad condition of the medieval towers and involved the transformation of the upper part of the western body, where the priest's home was placed. The current bell tower also dates back to 1524. In 1600 the diocesan bishop Marco Agrippa Dandini raised the church of Santa Maria delle Moie as a parish.
The church is made up of square stones of yellowish sandstone. Inside it is supported by four pillars and divided into three naves, divided into three bays: the median nave is raised and slightly cuspid. To the east all the aisles end with a semicircular apse. On this side the apses, which differ in height and depth, highlight the basilical shape of the church. There are two apses that protrude outwards on the north side, decorated, like the cornice, with the hanging arches in white travertine, partly supported by pairs of semi-cylindrical pilasters crowned by small capitals without decoration. Before entering the church there is an atrium, square in plan and covered in a cross flanked by two rooms with a similar plan, the left of which houses a spiral staircase. The portal has a splay with stepped columns and is decorated with intertwining leaves and flowers.
The most interesting elements of the church of Santa Maria are the apses and above all the plan (15x15 meters approx.) which, based on the four isolated internal pillars, recalls not so much Byzantine models as the paleo-Christian tri-apse buildings and a square plan with a Greek cross inscribed in the early Middle Ages, widespread in Italy and connected for the first time architecturally to each other in San Claudio al Chienti.
The characteristics of the elevation of Santa Maria delle Moie, with a central nave and a barrel-vaulted ceiling slightly higher than the lateral ones, and the double tower façade have important precedents in the Marche. As for the typology, the main reference is the abbey church of Santa Maria di Portonovo in Ancona. As for the facade, which was originally a double tower, illustrious precedents in Italy are the Cathedral of Bobbio and San Giovanni in Como where, as in Moie, the entrance span that is located between the two towers is combined with a matroneo . The church is dedicated to the nativity of Mary and a painting of this subject adorned the main altar.