A “hidden” treasure in Seminara: the church of Sant’Elia and Filarete. Frescoes of rare beauty


By John

A hidden “treasure”.. A Ortodox church guarded by rows of secular olive trees, among the lands that were the places loved by the monk Barlaam, tutor of Francesco Petrarca and Giovanni Boccaccio and eternal glory of European culture. Barlaam was one of the most convinced supporters of the reunification between the Eastern and Western Churches and is considered one of the fathers of Humanism.

The “treasure” we are talking about is the church of Sant’Elia and Filarete, place of worship of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta, built and designed by the entrepreneur, technician and artist Enzo Simonetta on the initiative of a doctor and writer of refined culture: Santo Gioffrè. The design work bears the engineer’s signature Giuseppe Buggè and the structure was built on land donated by Gioffrè – who was appreciated as councilor for culture of the Province of Reggio – in one of the most evocative corners of Seminara city of ancient tradition and a thriving economic and literary center of southern Italy in the past centuries.

The church commissioned by Father Nilo – now resident in Stilo – is particularly close to the heart of the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who came to bless the land on which it was later erected.

But why is it a real architectural and artistic “treasure”? Because inside they have been made of afrescoes of rare beauty by another Orthodox friar, Father Basilio, who came specially from distant Greece to embellish the sacred structure. «A structure» explains Enzo Simonetta «made following the orthodox tradition which requires the use of local materials. And we have used bricks, tiles, terracotta and San Lucido stone, making the most of all the production guaranteed by this corner of the peninsula».

The sacred seat, now managed by Father Benedetto, is a place of worship and veneration that is always open and visited by people from all over the world. Seminara, on the other hand, as the volcanic and ingenious Santo Gioffrè has always written and then reiterated in every place of cultural comparison, was a city of high spirituality as evidenced by the presence of dozens of existing churches and convents in this area of ​​Calabria .

Even today there is the Basilica Sanctuary of Maria Santissima dei Poveri which preserves the venerated wooden statue of the Madonna dei Poveri inside. TOOther valuable works of art kept in the Sanctuary are two statues of St. Peter and St. Paul from the 15th century, and a Madonna with child attributed to Antonello Gagini.

«I have to admit» explains Enzo Simonetta «that during the construction works I perceived ancient energies and sensations that these places still give off. It was not only a working experience but also a dreamlike and spiritual one of great suggestion. An experience perhaps unrepeatable. Just as he had imagined that the writer Gioffrè was the cultured and authentic singer of this piece of Italy that most of all desired it.