Italy is full of churches. There are little ones, big ones and in-between ones. There are chiesas, duomos, basilicas and cattedrales. They are everywhere. You are sure to pass one, if not more, every day. So, dress appropriately, because you may just want to look inside.
Even the smallest of villages boasts its own chiesa. They dot the countryside every few kilometres. Chiesa di Sant’Anna is no exception. It occupies a hill (don’t they all?), complete with numerous obligatory steps, in the small village of Diano Serreta, just up the road from Hotel Liliana.
Serreta is your typical Italian village with the trademarks of bed sheets drying outside windows, meandering narrow paths, dubiously connected power and telephone lines, TV antennas crowded on rooftops, animated women gossiping in the piazza and elderly men arguing about football.
The church of Sant’Anna seems more a chapel than a church, but large enough to hold the population of Serreta, all 115 of them. We decided to visit this church midweek, only to find it closed. But what a view those parishioners have across the valley towards another church, Chiesa di San Nicola.
We returned to Sant’Anna on Sunday, just before Mass, to find it open. Apart from a couple of parishioners, we had the church to ourselves. Sant’Anna is not a dark and sombre place of worship, but rather an open and cheerful one, full of light and colour.
Originally built in the 17th-century by the Casamiglia family as a chapel for the nobility, I could find little information about recent restorations. Its fresco covered dome ceiling and painted walls that simulate marble and masonry highlight the Baroque style. The marble altar was built in 1675.
The church is dedicated to Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus Christ. No mention of Anne appears in the New Testament. Her story comes chiefly from the Gospel of James, which is part of the Apocrypha.
The life of Saint Anne and her connection as the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus was popular with early Christians. In the year 550, a church was built in honour of Saint Anne in Jerusalem, on the site believed to be the home of Anne and her husband Joachim, and the birthplace of the Virgin Mary.
Since the Seventh Century, the Greek and Russian Churches have celebrated feasts honouring Saint Anne. The Western Churches began to celebrate the feast of Saint Anne in the Sixteenth Century. Two of the world’s most revered pilgrimage sites are dedicated to Saint Anne, that of Saint Anne d’Auray in Brittany, France, and that of Saint Anne de Beaupre near Quebec in Canada
Nowhere is the importance of Saint Anne in the Catholic Church more evident than in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (c 1502-1516). Even before he completed the painting, it was winning critical acclaim from the Florentines.
Traditionally, the Feast of Saint Anne is July 26th, which Chiesa di Sant’Anna takes as its Parish Day. On this day, a procession of the statue of the Saint and accompanying band winds its way through the streets of the village.
So, if you want to visit a typical Italian village and be part of the procession, be there on July 26th, but check with the tourist office as to the route.
Chiesa di Sant’Anna
Salita alla Chiesa, 18013 Serreta, Italy
Tourism Diano Marina