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The Church of S. Rufino intra moenia

The Church of St. Rufino Intra Moenia was originally the third parish of the "Terra murata" (the walled land) of Mondragone. The cult of Saint Rufino in the Terra della Rocca of Mondragone is indeed very ancient: the saint was also dedicated to an exhibition later dedicated to Saint Bartolomeo (whose commemoration precedes that of Rufino of a single day). It took place on the shore and moved within the urban site, near the farmhouse of Sant'Angelo.

There are three churches built and documented in the Mondragonese plain which are linked to the cult of San Rufino. The first one was located outside the walls of the city, in an area located between the current Via Salerno and Via Oberdan (the streets of Salerno and Oberdan) where the flooring and the apse area were still visible.

The cult of the Capuan saint probably originated in Rocca del Monte Petrino in Norman times, while the construction of the sacred building near the seashore is commonly attributed to the will of Ladislao I of Durrës, together with the donation of lands to the Capuan Chapter. It is likely that, with the abandonment of the aforementioned fortress and the construction of new settlements in the plain below, even the saint’s cult was transferred downstream and made concrete through the construction of a new religious structure, always under the Capuan Chapter. The Privilegium confirmationis bonorum Capuanae Ecclesiae, quae enumerantur, issued by Alexander IIIon 1 March 1173 and concerning the churches of S. Rufino in Rocca Montis Draconis and S. Pancrazio, is certainly supporting this thesis. Reading this document you may notice that the small worship building was placed on the rock. At the time, the plain - especially the coastal strip - was still dangerous to inhabit.

Pratilli reports from the Church: «Further on Sinuessa, heading to the right towards the sea, to that place where you can see the ancient church with the nearby camp of St. Rufino,bishop of Capoa, and the other donated by King Ladislao to the Chapter of the Metropolitan Church of Capoa, who is in possession of it, and appoints the parish priest of the said church of St. Rufino, moved within the nearby Terra di Mondragone».

From the Platea dei Beni and Pesi della Chiesa di Capua of the year 1726, we can read something more regarding the church: “Moggia 40 of land, where it’s said to San Rufino, near the side that goes to the Via Marina, once reached the nearby road of the Carrarola that comes out to the Marina (current via Como, N.d.a.), and once arrived the assets of Angelo Nuti, the Faienza Lords, Giacinto Cerqua, heirs of Luca Tedeschi, in the middle of Terra del Capitolo you may see the church of San Rufino and answers to the Chapter one hundred tomoli of wheat eight measures and thirteen and a half (I say tomoli one hundred and thirteen and a half measures)».

For the various bishops the presence of a structure of worship was not well-liked, since its conspicuous revenues from various heritages was for the exclusive benefit of the Capuan Chapter. In an unknown date the building - which also served as a burial site, due to the mortal remains found on site (on a lot built on the current Via Salerno) - was transferred within the wall perimeter of Mondragone, around "Porta di Mare" which separated the citadel from the coastal area to the west.

However, one can trace back the genesis of the little church of St. Rufino from the reports that the bishops of Carinola periodically sent to the "Sagra Congregazione del Concilio", as seen in Mons.

Mons. Ayrolo, when speaking of the parish of St. Rufino, tends to highlight the conditions of degradation of the Church, both from the structural point of view and the exercise of the "care of souls". The bishop certainly didn’t like that the chapter of another diocese benefited from the goods of a parish belonging to his jurisdiction which was moreover left in complete degradation without a pastor, as it happened in 1676.

The fate of the parish therefore became a matter of principle, to the point that Ayrolo’s requests came to the Sacred Congregation, after he had confiscated the revenues to donate them to the priests to whom he had arbitrarily entrusted it.

Four years later, in a document drawn up by Ayrolo, it is clear that the dissent on the management of the parish continues. In this report he talks of «a chapel so cramped in capacity and indecent structure that hardly 20 people can enter it (...) In my holy visits I established several times that the incomes and the goods that I seized for this purpose, should have been used to restore the Chapel to widen it and make it more decent». In 1701 the critical situation in which the structure was situated didn’t seem to have been resolved so much that the Ayrolo writes:'The first [referring to the church extra moenia, n.d.a.] was decently built with all the outbuildings for the house of the parish priest and with all the amenities; due to the neglect of the Canons [of the Metropolitan Church of Capua, n.d.a.], notwithstanding the decrees of my predecessors in their holy visitations, and the proclamations for its edification, it had fallen from the foundations. Later on, a private chapel built within the territory of the same parish for devotion of the citizens - which is capable of containing no more than 20 people - replaced it, so that the new parish church could be built at the expense of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Capua (...). In the same way, since the Chapel threatens to collapse, for the same carelessness, during last year’s holy visit, I have suspended it and banned it, and it will remain this way until the Day of Judgment if it is not provided by express mandate to seize the income to be spent for the construction of a new church within the boundaries of the same parish, so that the faithful in it are not forced with great discomfort to take refuge in other Churches».

Texts by Francesco Miraglia & Corrado Valente
Photo by Angelo Razzano
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