Villa Badessa and the church of Santa Maria Assunta
A small eastern oasis in the heart of Abruzzo
What it is and where it is
Between the sea and the mountains of Abruzzo lies Villa Badessa (Badhesa), a hamlet of the municipality of Rosciano. It is a small urban center, counting only 395 inhabitants, and its structure makes one think of just those small villages where everyone knows each other. The main core of buildings, in fact, is neatly developed in two rows that look at each other. In between them is the main street that leads to the hamlet's church: Santa Maria Theotokos, or St. Mary of the Assumption.
Why it is special
A rather unusual name, that of the church, almost Greek-sounding... The explanation is soon said: Villa Badessa is one of the Albanian settlements in Central Italy, one of the most recent and the only one in Abruzzo. The current population, or at least part of it, is descended from some Albanian migrant families, and because of this it still retains some distinctive features of the culture of origin, including the church in which the Greek rite is celebrated, and a museum that tells the traditions and history of Villa Badessa.
Not to be missed
The church of Santa Maria Theotokos is located at the end of the main road, or perhaps it is better to say at the beginning, characterizing itself as the centerpiece of the small village. The exterior appearance is very simple: a gabled facade with a door, a lunette, a triforium and above a small bell gable. The interior, on the other hand, surprises with its oriental features. The most striking is certainly the iconostasis, which separates the faithful from the altar, resplendent in the colors of the icons. Other sacred representations hang on the side walls, while the apse boasts frescoes and mosaics.
A bit of history
The village of Villa Badessa was established during the 18th century. The first public act recorded here is the establishment of the parish in 1744. In contrast to other Arbëreshë communities, it was not a foundation of emigrants, but of recruits and officers of the Royal Macedonian Regiment from Saranda and stationed in Abruzzo.
According to one legend, it was the patron saint of Villa Badessa who decided what would be the perfect place to establish the village. The Albanian refugees, in fact, had brought with them the icon of Our Lady Odigitria, "She who shows the Way" in Greek. This effigy, however, was heavy enough to slow their march. As the days passed, the icon became heavier and heavier, to the point where it was no longer possible to move it. And that is precisely the place, where Villa Badessa now stands.
Discover places and related research