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A holiday to live in colour



2022-11-05 16:33

Dr. Domenico Bagalà

Costa Viola, Aspromonte, Calabria, MYSTERIES, TOWERS,








A mysterious Domus mansiones between Vallis Salinarum and Limina


As is well known, the Templars were monk-knights who constituted one of the most famous religious-military Orders of the medieval Christian world. The Militia Templi "Militia of the Temple" [1] was created in Jerusalem around 1120 by the French nobleman Hugh of Payens about twenty years after the First Crusade (1095-1099), which was called precisely in Aspromonte and ended with the Christian army's conquest of the Holy City [2]. In fact, the reason the Templar Order was created was to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land from Muslim attacks. Consequently, the Templar military apparatus in the Middle East was maintained, especially from the middle of the 12th century, thanks to the income from the management of the Order's numerous European possessions. Therefore, throughout Europe, and also in Calabria, the Templars established both domus "houses", often real centres of agricultural production, and domus-mansiones "house-houses" [3]. The latter were located in strategic places along the main routes and provided food, accommodation and protection for pilgrims and travellers [4].

Among the many scholars who have engaged in the study of the Templar presence in Italy is Bianca Capone [5], who, starting in the late 1960s, conducted various documentary research aimed at reconstructing the location of Templar domus in the Italian peninsula. As far as Calabria is concerned, Capone has identified Templar domus in various locations, but the one that aroused our interest was the indication of a probable domus that must have been located between the Valley (delle Saline?) and a mountain pass (the Limina?). A topographical and also field research identified the probable domus mansiones at the Torre Alba locality in Cinquefrondi R.C., a strategic pass directly connected with the high plateau of the Passo della Limina or del Mercante, 822 metres above sea level, located on the isthmus between the municipalities of Cinquefrondi and Mammola, representing the natural border of Aspromonte with the Serre calabre chain and between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian sides of the Vallis Salinarum, not far from the monastery of St. Nicodemus the Saint from the year 1000, formed in the monastery of St. Fantino in Taureana. The toponym 'Limina' derives from the Latin, 'Limen' (border) and was probably given by the Knights Templar, who at the time had control and protectorate of the Port of Tauriana and the entire Vallis Salinarum. In fact, the pass was previously called by the Greek toponym 'λίμνη' (quagmire, pond), which referred to a small lake.

 Italian Templar domus were often managed by a preaceptor, also called prior, [6] who may have been based in the abbey of Taureana.


Returning to the domus mansiones of Torre Alba, which is located along the 'Petrucciana' road, it has a rectangular perimeter, unfortunately cemented with modern plaster, with a circular watchtower with battlements typical of the medieval period that served as a lookout. In fact, from the top of the tower one can see the Tyrrhenian Sea and the coastline from Nicotera to Taureana as well as the Taureana tower itself. At the base there is a narrow cell with a gate with large iron bars. Opposite, near a spring that is still used today, is a single-nave church with a semicircular apse, where clear phases of reconstruction can be seen, including a medieval opus mistum phase. On the sides are large windows with Gothic arches, three on each side, plus a large one on the façade where a cross with equal arms is inserted. The arms of this cross face the four cardinal points, which is why it is the basis of orientation symbols for any level of human existence. Its verticality and horizontality link heaven to earth, uniting space-time in the centre. The total number of windows is therefore 7. The number 7 for the Christian religion has a special symbolism: 7 are the days when God created the world and the universe (including, specifically, the seventh day, the day when God rested), 7 the capital virtues and vices, 7 books in the Bible, 7 the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 92, the name of God appears 7 times. The central verse ('you, O Lord, are the exalted for ever') is preceded and followed by 7 verses (...).

The façade of this church was strongly influenced by Templar architecture. The architectural framework was organised to represent the Temple, at the top there is a round gable and pediment, on the roof on the south side, a cross called the cross of Jerusalem, at the sides two of columns with Doric capitals and an abacus with a simple echinus, on which rests the double row of relief architrave supporting the gable, i.e. the vault of heaven that always recalls the Temple, which is also a mystical symbol.  In this perspective, the church is not simply a monument, but is a sanctuary, a Temple. Its purpose is not only to 'gather' the faithful in prayer, but to create for them an environment that allows Grace to manifest itself better. In traditional thought, the design of the temple is not left to the personal inspiration of the architect, but is given by God Himself. In other words, the earthly temple is built in accordance with a celestial archetype communicated to mankind through the intermediary of a prophet, and this is what founds the legitimate Templar architectural tradition. Since the temple represents the Body of Christ, the door, which is its summary, must also represent Christ. In the door leaves, four circles are carved in the wood with a further circle in the centre. Numerous authors compared the relationship between God and Creation with that existing between the Centre and the Circle, which represent the different degrees of the universal manifestation of the Unmanifested One Being. Among geometric figures, the Circle is a symbol of all that is Celestial: Heaven, the Soul, the Unbounded, God. This is why there is an immissa florense cross (passing through God) on the floor outside the entrance to the church. The orientation of the church with the entrance to the East makes it even more interesting, let us see why.

Since the dawn of Christianity in the East, there was a widespread tradition of orienting temples, or more generally places of worship, towards the East according to the criterion called 'Versus Solem Orientem' because, similarly to the pagans, for Christians too salvation and rebirth were linked to the generic cardinal direction of the East.


Since 999, the year Pope Sylvester ascended to the papal throne, one of his papal bulls explicitly recommended the criterion 'Versus Solem Orientem'. In reality not all followed the Pope's indication, in fact many places of worship were built with the apse facing west instead of east. Then, from the second half of the 15th century, the orientations of several churches were reversed and built with the apse facing east, so that both the officiant and the faithful prayed facing the direction of the sunrise. During the 8th century this custom was interrupted again for a few years, only to be restored during the following centuries. The causes of these reversals are not known, although scholars have formulated some hypotheses (...). Generally speaking, there are few churches dating back to the period in which the orientation direction reversals occurred that have survived to the present day and of which it is possible to accurately measure the direction of their axis. In spite of this, there are illustrious exceptions, which preserve the temporary tradition of orienting the apse towards the west. They are both found in Rome and are the Basilica of St. Peter's and that of St. John Lateran, and, as we have seen, also in the small Templar church of Torre Alba, in Cinquefrondi, Calabria, which supports a dating compatible with the hypothesised functional hypothesis.





                            the masonry comparison





Curatrice della rubrica Goya di Calabriadreamin' :

Carmen Alba Caratozzolo


[1] The members of the brotherhood created by Hugh of Payens were called Templars or fratres Templi "brothers of the Temple" because they had their headquarters in a palace located near the remains of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (Frale 2004).

[2] Cardini Franco, I Templari, Florence 2011, Giunti, pp. 31-32 - see also Antonella Musitano, La Chanson d'Aspremont, Reggio Calabria 2019, Laruffa Editore. 

[3] Frale Barbara, I Templari, Bologna 2004, Il Mulino, pp. 68-69.

[4] The Templar Order had divided the numerous domus it possessed into various provinces. As for the Italian domus, these were located in the province Italia, corresponding to central-northern Italy, or in the province Apulia, i.e. in the territory of Calabria and the Kingdom of Sicily (Bramato 1991).

[5] In 1983, Bianca Capone was the main founder of the L.A.R.T.I. (Libera Associazione Ricercatori Templari Italiani), an association that mainly deals with tracing Templar settlements in Italy.

 [6] Italian Templar domus were often run by a preaceptor, also called prior (Bramato 1991).


Also consult:

Capone Bianca, I Templari in Italia, Milan 1977, Armenia, p. 144.

Capone Bianca, Quando in Italia ci erano i Templari, Turin 1981, C. Capone, pp. 177-178.

Capone Bianca, Alla ricerca delle mansioni templari. Central and Southern Italy, Turin 2009, Federico Capone, pp. 69-76.

Capone Bianca, Imperio Loredana, Valentini Enzo, Templar Italy, Rome 2011, Edizioni Mediterranee, pp. 196.

Bramato Fulvio, Storia dell'Ordine dei Templari in Italia. Vol. I. Le Fondazioni, Rome 1991, Atanòr, pp. 154-157, 174.

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