An interesting example of Abruzzo Romanesque, this parish church is dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto and is the largest of the sacred buildings in Villalago. It is placed on an open space along the impressive stairway that leads from Piazza Celestino V up to the oldest part of the village. Its origin is linked to the evolution of the urban parts of the village which, orignally built in the 11th century for defensive purposes on the summit of Mount Argoneta, then spread down to the south where is was less steep.
It was here that it was decided to build the church. In the first documents that mention it, which date back to the 14th century, it is called by the title of Santa Maria della Villa.
Over the following centuries, the building has undergone various transformations. Recent renovations have allowed the recovery of the coating of the rough stone facade and the enhancement of the 15th century portal, on whose archivolt was found an inscription containing a date, interpreted as "MCCC ...".
The church houses some important relics of St. Domenico Abate, a hermit who lived between the 10th and the 11th century who chose the rugged and spectacular Sagittario valley as a special place for his ascetic retreats. He was already an important figure to whom had been attributed miraculous powers, in particular against the bites of rabid animals and poisonous snakes.
ExteriorThe church displays a façade with a horizontal coping with a splayed portal made from local stone. The lintel is supported by carved corner ledges and in the centre is an Agnus Dei. On the sides, the beams and pillar columns extend above the capitals - which are decorated with floral elements - to frame the lunette with a delicate decoration of rosettes running along the piers. Within this is the recent painting of San Domenico Abate from 2000. Above the door is a circular window with a carved frame which has been recently restored.
To the left of the church stands the square bell tower. A curb separates the oldest part at the bottom in rough stone from the top part which houses the belfry, which was rebuilt in the mid 20th century. In it is the miraculous bell which is said to have been transported here from the monastery of San Pietro in Lago, founded by San Domenico Abate, whose ringing has the power to suppress hail and storms.
InteriorThe Baroque interior is divided into three naves by deep, round arches and is covered by a barrel vault with lunettes. In the presbytery is a dome on plumes. Along the perimeter walls are the side altars and the "chapel", which houses the Baroque altar from 1621, which is dedicated to San Domenico Abate. The latter, in stucco and marble, houses the 19th century statue of the saint, depicted in his Benedictine habit. In a glass case placed under the stone altar - according to tradition taken from the ancient monastery of San Pietro in Lago - are some remains of the wooden beams used by the holy hermit as his bedding in the cave located in the hermitage of Prato Cardoso. Also of note are the painting of Our Lady of Loreto placed above the altar - which was built in 1857 by Constantine Buccini - and the valuable oil painting depicting the Madonna del Rosario, dating back to 1581, which is on the left wall.
Inside the sacristy there is a precious silver reliquary containing, according to 14th century tradition, the molar tooth belonging to San Domenico, which he donated to the local population before leaving the area.