San Giovanni di Venere

One of the most important Benedectine Abbeys in Abruzzo, San Giovanni in Venere lies a little distance from Fossacesia (CH) on a rock sorrounded by olive trees, with a wide view on the Adriatic below.

The Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere is an easy to get to place that will take about 2-4 hours for a complete walk through. The outside grounds are filled with gardens and there is a semi secret path along the south side. (The side with the sea view towards Fossacessia) that after about a hundred meters you will find yourself on a cliffside overlook of the Trabocchi Coast. 

“The majestic, austere inside is divided into 3 aisles surmounted by round arches. The sanctuary is high on a platform which can be reached climbing 14 steps Below the sanctuary there is an important crypt, built with Roman columns probably taken from the temple to Venus. The three apses in the back of the crypt are covered with great frescoesThe central fresco shows Christ in throne surrounded by angels, with a book on his left where the words “ego sum lux mundi, via veritatis, vita” are written. On one side John the baptist has the inscription “Ecce agnus dei ecce qui tollit peccata mundi”, on the other side John the Gospel writer. The most beautiful is however the fresco in the apse on the right, by Luca di Pallustro from Lanciano, commissioned by Abbot Oderisius II one century before Cimabue and Giotto, which shows together with a great color technick a simplicity and tenderness never before recorded in painting. The fresco shows a Virgin Mary with Child sitting on a chair, surrounded by St. Nicholas from Bar and st Michael the archangel dressed in white and red with multicolored wings.”  (From Italy Heritage)

Continue through a small door on the left wall (when facing he altar) and you will enter into the splendid courtyard with enclosed halls on three sides that have beautiful open beam ceilings. Artists frequently come here to study perspective drawing. The courtyard itself is a classical Italian garden space. You will also find some ancient archeological relics from the first temple of Venere Conciliatrice. (Likely the same Roman Venus)  

The Temple of Venus

6 miles from Anxanum (ancient name of Lanciano) between the rivers Sagro and the Olivello, on a high rock dominating the small harbor of Venere (which is recorded in ancient maps) the Frentani had a temple and small hamlet dedicated to Venere Conciliatrice, possibly the same Venus worshipped in Rome as Viriplaca, where quarreling spouses went to be reconciled. (From Italy Heritage)
The tradition says that St. Benedict himself founded a monastery on the place, but there is no proof. In 741 a church is mentioned in a diploma issued by Pope Zacharias I. On the site of the temple Count Trasmondo of Teate (Chieti) built in 973 A.D. a church in honor of the Virgin Mary and St.John the Baptist. In 1015 Count of Chieti Trasmondo II gave it, along with many other donations to the Benedictines, who proceeded to build a monastery attached to the church. The history of the Abbey after that can be followed through documents and notary acts. (From Italy Heritage)
The abbey grew in importance and power and for this reason possibly was attacked on 14 march 1346 by the people of Lanciano, who stole the provisions and set fire to the castle. After that the abbot decided to rent part of the lands to the inhabitants of Lanciano instead of allotting them to feudal lords. Thanks to this gesture of good-will and friendship, when in 1381 Count Ugo Ursino of Manoppello attacked the monastery, Lanciano sent an army that broke the siege. In 1411 the castle of the Rocca San Giovanni was rebuilt, and an underground tunnel connected it to the monastery. (From Italy Heritage)
Left Pillar
Right Pillar
Portale Della Luna

The decorations on the outside, as it can be seen today, can be dated to the years 1204 1230, after the death of Odorisius II. The peculiar, asymmetric facade of the church, shows a rich marble portal of Apuleian influence, called “portale della Luna”, sided by two pillars: in the one on the right there are representations of Daniel in the den of the lions, the Archangel Gabriel and Zacharias, while in the left pillar there is an annunciation, Saint Anna, St John the Baptist, and two peacocks drinking from a vase. In the lunette above the portal there is a high-relief with John the Baptist, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. There are two other portals, different between themeselves, on both sides, the work of Maestro Alessandro, whose name is carved in the stone. (From Italy Heritage)