Church of Santa Maria della Fede (1421)
This little church four kilometres west of Montefiore, is one of the most significant churches in the history of the town.
Before the construction of the present church this was an isolated rural area, as it still is, with a small chapel with a fresco of the Virgin Mary on the wall.
The story goes that a miracle occurred here. Some children, the story goes, were playing nearby and accidentally threw some stones which hit the face of the Virgin, which immediately developed a visible bruise.
The boys who had thrown the stones fell to their knees and begged forgiveness.
The present church was subsequently built on the site of this miracle, incorporating at its heart the original painting, which you can still see today. Local people were granted a licence to build the church by the bishop of Fermo, and you can also see the Fermo coat of arms carved on a contemporary plaque
This story, even though not historically proven, is the reason for such local devotion to the Madonna whose image looks down on the faithful from above the altar.
It is much more likely that the church was built in the hope that the Virgin would intercede for the local people to save them from a terrible plague which was decimating the region at that time. This little, remote church had such a significant place in the local culture, and continues to do so today.
It was declared in 1569 that each Ascension day every year all the dignitaries of the church would walk in procession from the town of Montefiore to the church to take part in sacred rites, and then process back into town. Anyone not taking part would be heavily fined.
The linked hands over the altar also record the important peace treaty between Ascoli and Fermo which was signed here. The name of the church, ‘Saint Mary of the Faith’ refers to the trust shown between the two parties in making the treaty.
The church is in a very good state of conservation. It is a 15th century construction, with the entrance to the east, and a little apse to the west, with two small lateral chapels making the form of the Latin cross. In the centre there is a small cupola which lends a certain elegance to the whole.
It was only given the status of a Parish church in 1800. The Archbishop of Fermo nominated the first priest to take charge of the parish in 1821 and it remained a parish church until 1986 when it was amalgamated with the parish of Santa Lucia as part of a general restructuring of the diocese.
As well as the wonderful fresco, the little church also has a very important, but little known, relic; a thorn from the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus before the crucifixion. Contained in the same reliquary is a tiny fragment of the post that Jesus was tied to when he was beaten. These items are officially identified in a document signed by the Archbishop of Fermo in 1864.
Although the church no longer has its own parish it remains a very important focus for the cult of the Virgin in Montefiore.