The Templar Knights Way
This trail leads to the two places that revealed the presence of the Templar Knights in the Lower Nera Valley: San Mamiliano, where a mysterious meeting took place in 1307 and Santa Maria's Church in Ferentillo, full of symbols of the centuries-old story of this Order. This itinerary offers splendid views on the mountains of the Lower Nera Valley, as well as the Marmore Waterfall.
The trail starts in the village of Monzano. The narrow road, initially paved then unpaved, goes along San Bernardino's Monastery and later joins the paved road winding up to Montefranco.
From here and up to Precetto, the itinerary continues on the paved road that gets narrower after San Mamiliano and leads to Santa Maria's Church in Ferentillo.
Cross the Valnerina state road and the old bridge on the River Nera and arrive in Precetto. From here, following the unpaved road along the left bank of the Nera River (this is part of the itinerary “The oil path”), go back to the starting point.
San Bernardino's Church stands in Monzano, down the road where the Valnerina state road winds up to Montefranco. The church was built on a site were a former religious building had been previously erected. At present, the building is composed by one church and one oratory.
Considering its gabled facade, built with masonry blocks in Romanesque style, it can assumed that the building was previously erected to the dedication to the Franciscan saint travelling here in 1444.
Inside the 15th and 16th century frescoes can be admired. Next to the church stands the monastery of the Friars Minor.
Montefranco can be considered as 'The terrace in the Nera Valley of Terni'.
The fortress stands on the top of a rock mountain over the Valnerina state road. The town overlooks the Nera Valley from Ferentillo to the Marmore Waterfall and the main mounts of the 'middle valley'.
The defensive function of Montefranco was initially guaranteed by its natural position; later during the medieval era two towers and perimeter walls were built and the ruins can still be visited today along the road down the valley.
The town was founded with the name of Castel Bufone in the 13th century by the exiles from the opposite town of Arrone. The town still preserves its medieval layout thanks to several renovation works.
Located on the watershed between the Nera Valley and the Tescino stream, where the Flaminia road winds, Montefranco represented a crucial crossing point between the Nera Valley and Terni, then Rome.
Its strategic position was confirmed by the decision of Pope Urban VIII in 1639 consisting in creating here the road “Strada delle Ferriere” to serve the mines of Monteleone di Spoleto. In May 1444, Saint Bernardine of Siena stopped here while travelling to L'Aquila and died few days later. An evocative historical reenactment is dedicated to the Saint.
The fascinating history, the wonderful views, the quality products and the historical reenactment in honour of Saint Bernardine make Montefranco both a place to experience and a starting point to discover 'from the top' the beauties of the Lower Nera Valley.
This old hillside medieval town characterised by a strong fortification structure had a vital defensive role in the area, specifically during the Saracenic invasions in the 9th century.
San Mamiliano boasts the 14th century San Biagio's church having in its inside an important masterpiece by Jacopo Siculo (1538) and a wooden statue representing St. John.
In the little square named after the painter there is a well on which the emblem of Ferentillo was sculpted in 1005. The Village recently came into the limelight for the 'treasure' the Templar Knights hid both in the village and in San Giovanni's Monastery.
Santa Maria's Church was built under Pope Eugene III in the second half of the 13th c. ( according to some archive sources its origins actually date back to the 9th century and it was a parish church).
In 1494 it was extended for Franceschetto Cybo, becoming a square-plan church divided into three naves separated by 6 columns with connected blocks, among which two blocks are octagonal.
In 1560 the Lateran Chapter elected Santa Maria as collegiate church. The esoteric symbols sculpted in the nave and the frescoes hiding the secrets of the Cybo Family are of vital importance. The salient facade is the result of several renovations during the centuries. A 16th century terracotta sculpture representing the Holy Mary's chest and reminding the Michelangelo's model is preserved above the main portal. The main stone gate carries an inscription dating back to 1493, as well as Holy Mary with Child among 16th century heads of angels painted on the upper lunette. In the apsis there is a panel portraying the Holy Mary with Child, which is a byzantine copy of the 18th c. The side chapels were built in 1532 and preserve valuable Renaissance artworks, such as the “Martyr Virgins” and “ Saint Anthony the Abbot” painted in 1543 by Jacopo Siculo (1490-1544).
“The Miracle of Saint Thomas” painted by the local artist Piermatteo Piergili (Jacopo Siculo's pupil), other frescoes like “Saint Lucy” in the right pillar painted by Orlando Merlini in 1507 and an Annunciation above the arch of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel are also of great value.
Another valuable fresco is the one on the large arch of the apsis portraying “God sitting on a throne” among angels and two musician sphinxes painted by the school of the painter Lo Spagna.
The white marble baptismal font standing at the entrance of the church carries a ritual inscription and on the upper frieze preserves a triangular canvas portraying Saint John The Baptist.
Both side chapels were rebuilt in the 17th c. and dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady of the Rosary. N one of them one can admire a devotional sculpture portraying a “Pietà” similar to the so called 'Vesperbild'.
Externally the 15th century bell spire still preserves the biggest bronze bell in the Nera Valley, on which the story of its destruction by the Napoleon's troops in 1797 can be read.
The bells of Santa Maria's Church, like the bells of the other churches in Ferentillo, rang in the past and still ring in our days thanks to the Brotherhood of the Bell-Ringers, who ring the typical symphony of the Umbrian bells during each religious events taking place in the town.
Precetto can be reached crossing the bridge over the River Nera. The fortified centre is crossed by the small stream Fosso del Castellone and is dominated by a medieval fortress with walls. Precetto is the perfect location for rock climbing which can be practised on the high cliffs.
Not far from the town centre, a mysterious fresco (Madonna con Bambino, “Our Lady with Child”, 15th c.) has been painted on a rock wall facing a little waterfall of the stream Fosso del Castellone.
Inside the crypt of Santo Stefano's Church the famous Museum of the Mummies can be visited.