Just more than a boy, the fifteen old Venanzio was tortured and killed because he believed in another God than most of the people of his time. In his honour a hermitage was built in a most suggestive spot above a little stream near to L’Aquila in the Abruzzo mountains.
There are several hermitages in the Abruzzo area. They are always built in very particular places of course, as they once were hidden away from the rest of civilization. Though today civilization is much more near than hundreds of years ago. San Venanzio in Raiano was right on our way.
Venantius was born and raised in Camerino in the Marche around 245 AD. It’s a little mountain village near to the Umbria border. At a young age he had known Christianity and converted to the new belief. But at 15 years of age he was discovered with the little community he was living with and was asked for changing back to the mainstream belief of the time. He didn’t. Nor did the others. They were captured and tortured. He managed to escape and hide in the woods near to Raiano. He was captured again, tortured again and then finally killed.
If you read about what happened to him, it sounds crazy. No one would ever survive all those tortures. It seems a list of all kinds of torture of that time. After such a torture to have the strength to escape and then even to walk 200 kilometers seems really crazy. Why not a hiding place nearby, why not with people helping you. And how did they find him in a thick, huge forest so far away? Was he that important already that they came after him?
Nothing happened after his death. But a thousand years later someone made him a martyr and the cult started. His day is the 18th May (the day he died). He was buried near to Camerino where a few hundred years later was constructed a church. Pope Clement X was a former bishop of Camerino and contributed to the spread of the cult.
The hermitage in Raiano is built over a little stream, the Aterno river. In the middle of a forest. It was constructed in the 12th century and is since then a pilgrimage church.
We entered the little church which shows in the center balustrade. The following stairs lead down to a kind of grotto right over the river. There should be his imprint where he prayed. There is another big hall and at the side of the church there are a few rooms, looked like kitchen, and bedrooms.
In any case you should climb down to the river mainly on the front side, passing the little kiosk (where you can get a coffee, a cold drink or a little snack). If you go on the other side of the stream you have a beautiful view on the arches above the river. In summer it is possible because there is little water running, in winter I guess it will be anyway closed here.
Nearby there are more exciting places like hot water springs, a Roman street carved into the rocks and wall paintings in a cave from the Neolithic period. It could be a day-trip. I have seen only the church.
Hermitage of Saint Venantius, Raiano, Abruzzo/Italy: