Itinerary of sacred places in the historic town centre of Gemona

  1. Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Gemona
  2. Church of Santa Maria di Fossale
  3. Sanctuary of Saint Anthony of Padua, the world’s oldest church dedicated to the saint.

The historic centre of Gemona contains other religious buildings of great historic and artistic importance, well worth spending some time in. Start at the Cathedral, in the city centre next to Porta Udine, then continue along Via Bini and Via dei Conti to Santa Maria del Fossale. Finally, the last stop is the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony.
of Padua, about 600 metres down the road towards “Parco di Via Dante Alighieri”.

Cathedral of
Santa Maria Assunta
in Gemona

View of Gemona Cathedral from the air

Gemona Cathedral is a jewel of Friulian Gothic architecture set between the sky and the steep mountain slopes, an outstanding example of reconstruction after the earthquake. The Cathedral is also the soul of the community, constructed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to reflect Gemona’s social and political importance in the Patriarchate of Aquileia. The sacred building was originally a part of the defensive system formed by the oldest circle of walls, and may in fact incorporate the base of a massive tower in its foundations.

Severely damaged by the 1976 earthquake, which caused the collapse of the spandrel of the façade and totally destroyed the right nave and the apse, the cathedral was saved by bold structural consolidation work supervised by the Superintendency of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The interior contains, among its many artworks, a  baptismal font made from an ancient Roman funerary altar, a damaged wooden crucifix reclaimed from the ruins after the earthquake, symbolising the tragedy, and a Vesperbild – or Pietà – of the Germanic school dating back to the early Middle Ages.  Don’t miss the Cathedral crypt, containing the Sacellum of San Michele with its fourteenth-century frescoes, the ossuary or the remains of the ancient tower.

Church of
Santa Maria
di Fossale

The Church of Santa Maria di Fossale is also known as the church of the Santissimo Nome di Maria, the Holy Name of Mary, built on the site of an ancient defensive ditch outside the second circle of walls. Hence the name “Fossale”, Italian for ditch!  

Church of Santa Maria di Fossale

The church, which originally had a hexagonal floor plan, was built between 1659 and 1660 by nobleman Marcantonio Locatello to contain a fresco, possibly painted in the sixteenth century, depicting Mary nursing her Son, which is said to have worked a miracle in 1655: tears supposedly sprang from Mary’s eyes. Restored and expanded in 1735, the church of Santa Maria del Fossale was consecrated again in 1744.  Like the other buildings in the area, it was completely destroyed in the 1976 earthquake. The church was faithfully reconstructed between 1990 and 1993. The oldest and most important work of art in the church is the great wooden crucifix, dating back to the thirteenth or early fourteenth century, from the oratory of the crucifix which stood adjacent to the church of San Giovanni and was, like it, destroyed in 1976.

Sanctuary of Saint Anthony of Padua,
the world’s oldest church dedicated to the saint.

The Sanctuary of Sanctuary of Saint Anthony of Padua is one of the town’s most important religious buildings, of considerable historical and artistic interest. Tradition has it that Saint Anthony himself had a chapel erected in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, during his 1227 visit to Gemona. The sanctuary was consecrated on 15 March 1248, seventeen years after Saint Anthony’s death, and fifteen years before the completion of construction of the famous basilica dedicated to the Saint in Padua, Pontificia Basilica Minore di Sant’Antonio da Padova. This is why Gemona has become the northern gateway to the  Way of Saint Anthony (the southern end of this important pilgrimage route is in Capo Milazzo, Sicily). The sanctuary was destroyed by the earthquake and then rebuilt in modern architectural style. The only part of the church that could be recovered and restored was the small presbytery of the Chapel of the Rosary.