While in Prata this morning, we went in search of the oldest church in the town, the Basilica dell’Annunziata. I had read about it online and we found it in an out-of-the-way area, having to stop and ask for directions several times. It was amazing. The older section, which you can identify immediately upon entering, was built in the first century A.D. As we say in Boston, that’s not just old, that’s wicked old.
It was really something to see. Behind the altar was a passageway that had openings carved into the wall. Inside these openings were piles of human bones. I’ve never seen anything like it. This church is also known for the ancient catacombs underneath it. Unfortunately the catacombs were under construction so we couldn’t go down there.
This church was unlike any other historic church or building I had seen in the past in cities like Rome and Florence. Prata is a fairly remote town. There are no tourists, and the church had no security or guides or helpful signs in English. When we approached the oldest section of the building, which contains the altar and the passageways behind it, it was very dark and our eyes had to adjust. To see in the passageways, we had to use the flashlight app on our smartphones (which is how we found the carved openings containing the bones). Despite it’s age, the basilica is still being used as a church today.
Here is what we saw:
Remains kept behind the altar
A second set of remains
A mosaic inside the church
The oldest part of the basilica, built in the first century, A.D.