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Wonder
Wonder  }  Place of worship

The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte

Where the water of the baptismal rite flows from a spring and on Easter night...

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Where is

Campania

Via S. Giovanni, 1, 84034 Loc. Fonti, SA, Italia (0m s.l.m.)

Directions
map

What it is and where it is

Going from Padula to Sala Consilina one sees a strange little house with some parts made of brick and others still in rough stone. There are some external arches, traces of a structure that has deteriorated over time, some buttresses, and even a veil on the roof, which looks as if it had housed a bell. Not a little house then, but a little church. Once inside, its nature is revealed: in the center of the hall defined by arcades, there is a baptismal font and a little further back an altar. The little gem in which we find ourselves is none other than the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte.

Why it is special

On the outside of the baptistery there is another anomalous feature: a gutter that brings out clear, cool water from the baptismal font inside. Peculiar, of course, but that is not the real surprising element of this place: there is another, in fact, that makes it almost unique among buildings of its kind. Normally a baptismal font is artificially filled, but not this one: it is fed directly from a spring that flows right here. This explains why the altar is so high: since it is a natural spring, sometimes the water level rises too high, and the altar had to be protected by raising it. Logical, right?

Not to be missed

The reflections of the water inside the baptistery, together with the few remaining frescoes on the walls, create an enchanted atmosphere from which it is difficult to separate oneself, but it is worth going back outside to encounter traces of an even more remote past: inscriptions have been found on the walls and in the surrounding ground that signaled burials from Roman times.

A bit of history

These very tombs testify to the fact that the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte stands where a pagan temple once stood , around which many people were buried. The baptistery dates back to the fourth century AD and is one of the oldest baptisteries in existence today. Its present name was given to it by the Benedictine monks who around the Middle Ages were very active in the area. In later times a chapel was added to the baptistery proper, which bears traces of Byzantine frescoes, although much of the decoration was detached and taken to the Charterhouse of Padula.

Curiosities

If the presence of an actual fountain is surprising, even more so is its behavior at a specific time of the year: it seems that for many years, always on Easter night, a favorite time for baptisms, the fountain would swell with water, far exceeding its usual level, as if responding to the call of the rite. It was a miracle, attracting pilgrims from all over the area.

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SIMTUR

It is always exciting to visit such picturesque places.

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