The Church of St Peter the Apostle – La Chiesa San Pietro Apostolo – dates from the 13th century and for hundreds of years was the castle of Roccascalegna’s ‘parish church’.
But as with the castle itself after it was abandoned in the early 1700’s, the church too fell into neglect and disrepair. However it has now been beautifully and simply restored, retaining much of its original work.
Inside, pride of place now goes to a series of ten modern stained-glass windows that line both walls. Try and time your visit to this most special of Abruzzo churches – and of course the castle – when the sun is shining brightly, because with the light flooding through these stained-glass windows, you’ll best appreciate the richness of their colour and the magical jewelled light they cast onto the old stone and plain white walls of the church’s interior.
But being Roccascalegna, even something as beautiful as this conceals a darker secret. Buried somewhere in the depths of this Abruzzo church is the body of the tyrannical Baron Corvo de Corvis, who was stabbed to death at some time during the 16th century.
It’s said that during winter snowstorms, the ghost of the Baron still prowls the battlements screaming in his death agony, while fluttering above, you can make out the dark shape of the Baron’s pet raven, who disappeared on the night of his master’s murder…
Instead of the mornful flapping of raven’s wings, the Abruzzo tourist is now more likely to hear the gentler hum of honeybees in the ancient remnants of the original medieval village of Roccascalegna at the foot of the castle rock. You’ll pick up the sign for where you can buy a jar of honey as you amble along the one remaining lane of the old village.
As you do so, watch out for the dated keystone (right) on the front-door lintel of a village house. It was built 10 years after the American Declaration of Independence – and about a thousand years after the first recorded settlement in this area !
Like the castle towering high above them, the village houses too seem to grow out of solid rocks that are appealingly studded with wind-sown alpine plants, while village gardens – some of them almost vertical – are a tribute to the skill and ingenuity of their owners.
Roccascalegna’s own website will tell you when the castle and the Church of St Peter the Apostle are open – and give you details of the many events hosted by the castle during – in particular – July and August.
Close-by the access points to the castle, church and old village is a free picnic area with tables and benches, plenty of free parking, two or three bars in the newer part of Roccascalegna and if you feel like stretching your legs some more, there are some delightful signposted walks leading off the path that winds its way up to the top of the rock. And all this lies an easy and highly scenic 20-minute drive from your villas for two base !