On a little street which widens out into a Piazza stands the church of Santa Maria. In the summer there is an open air mass followed by a celebration. The square is filled with tables and families from Piano San Leonardo and old Larino.There is music, a meal (prepared and served by the parishoners), and a dance. It is truly a family celebration. Normally three hundred people attend. The wonderful thing is that every single person knows everyone else.
Members of the church, over the decades, donated images of devotion. This is likely because Mary mirrors all of our lives: the hopeful mother, the sorrowing parent nursing a dead son on her knees, a figure that is at once filled with piety and tragedy. For Larino was no stranger to sadness and loss. The two World Wars decimated the youth of this tiny centre and Mary must have seemed approachable and sympathetic to the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, and daughters of the young boys who marched off never to return.
The church itself is suffused with light. Each of the stained glass windows tells some part of the story of Mary and the effigies make visible Her terrible ordeal.
There is a Pieta which is sometimes carried in procession. However, it has none of the simple resignation of Michaelangelo's famous sculpture in the Church of Saint Peter's in Rome. This is a sorrowing mother completely distraught attempting to understand the enormity of Her loss.
In the final instance, however, the overall effect of the Church is one of peace and tranquillity. Like so much of Larino, it has a human scale. It too captures part of the experience of this strange little town.
*It is sad to note that the church is now closed. It follows the fate of San Stefano's, and San Francesco's. Only the cathedral is an active church. However, the ancient seminary in Piazza Duomo, (the first seminary in the Western World) is now being refurbished. The Franciscan Convent, after a significant investment in reconstruction, has now been closed and has been left unfinished. It is to be hope that the authorities will realize how important these structures are to the World's Patrimony.