Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Found Sant' Alò!

Last weekend while visiting the city of Terni (a little over an hour north of Rome) we found a church dedicated to Sant' Alò. My middle name is Alo. It was my maternal grandfather’s first name, but no one in my family ever knew the meaning or the origin of the name.

Sant' Alò is the Italian diminuative of Saint Aloysius (Eligio), a goldsmith saint who lived in the 6th Century. Other forms of the name are Elgius and Eloi. His feast day is December 1st and is the patron of metalworkers. St Eligius was chosen to be bishop of Noyon and Tournai and died when he was 71 years old. He was known for his skill as a craftsman, his concern for the poor and his efforts at converting the people of Flanders to Christianity.

The church of Sant' Alò is one of the oldest places of worship in the city of Terni. It was built in the 12th century, on top of an ancient Roman structure dedicated to the goddess Cybele. The construction of a town-house in front of the old facade in the 13th century, resulted in the entrance of the church being moved to the right side of the structure. This small church has been used by various communities: the Augustines (13th century), the Sisters of St. Clare of Assisi (15th and 19th centuries) and the Knights of the Order of Malta (18th century). Today it is used by a Romanian Orthodox community and is also the chapel for the diocesan seminary that is next door.

The interior walls and columns are decorated with frescoes from the 12th to the 16th century.

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