CROCEVIA DI IMPERI. La chiesa longobarda di Sant’Ambrogio a Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno)

Research CROCEVIA DI IMPERI. La chiesa longobarda di Sant’Ambrogio a Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno)

At the Crossroads of Empires

The Longobard Church of Sant’Ambrogio at Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno)

The project is designed to reach to a new understanding and promote a timely revaluation of the early medieval church of Sant’Ambrogio alla Rienna, discovered in the late 1970s by local cultural heritage enthusiasts in the countryside of Montecorvino Rovella in the province of Salerno. This was the site of the capital established by Arichis II, the duke self-proclaimed prince of southern Langobardiaafter Charlemagne’s conquest of northern Langobardiain 774.

Preliminary investigations undertaken at the church in 2017–18, funded by the British Academy and facilitated by the Municipality of Montecorvino Rovella and by the universities of Salerno and Birmingham, indicate its clear links to the material culture of the secular courts and the monasteries in southern Langobardiain the late eighth and ninth centuries. As the church underwent no substantial modifications in later centuries, it not only displays an exceptionally well preserved, still-standing ninth-century fabric in fine masonry, but it houses one of the major preserved scheme of pictorial decoration from the same period, featuring one of the earliest images of the Theotokos, Mary as Mother of God, in western Europe. Yet, despite its importance, the church has never been systematically investigated.

The church lay at the border or more likely within the boundaries of a rural settlement of the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno, one of the greatest landowners in central Italy between the eighth and the ninth centuries. With a community made mostly of Longobard and Frankish monks, its cultural connections span from northern Europe to southern Italy. This could explain the choice for depicting four Milanese saints (Ambrose, Simplicianus, Gervasius, and Protasius) to the side of the Theotokos– saints whose cult was not practised in southern Langobardia.

The church of Sant’Ambrogio offers a unique case-study of early medieval culture at large and offers a wealth of materials relating to a range of scholarly disciplines for investigating political, social and material interaction between Longobard and Carolingian interests in a contact zone between monasticism, the Papacy, Longobards, Carolingians, Byzantium, and international pilgrimage routes.

The core outcome of the project will be a multi-authored monograph dedicated to Sant’Ambrogio at Montecorvino. It will be supplemented by articles and lectures intended for public and scholarly audiences.

But besides these scientific goals, the project has at its core 1) the education of young scholars, from the area as well as from other regions, in history, archaeology, cultural heritage practices; 2) the restoration of the site, its maintenance, and promotion.

The building and its funerary atrium (excavated in the 90s of the twentieth century, but poorly documented) have been the object of geo radar investigations and new excavations (since 2018). Field activities scheduled for July 2020, postponed due to the COVID-19 emergency, will presumably resume in July 2021.

The core scientific objectives of the project include: 1) the education of young scholars, from the area and from other regions, to history, archeology and good practices in cultural heritage; 2) the restoration of the site, its maintenance and promotion.

Through a more organised exploitation of the site, in which the local municipality, the Parish (owner of the church), and the local community have to be the main actors liaising with the scientific experts of the project, not only the project will help put Sant’Ambrogio on the map of cultural tourism, but it may also facilitate its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list “Italia Langobardorum: Places of Power, 568–774 AD.” In fact, this UNESCO serial site does not include Salerno and its surroundings. While their exclusion could be justified by previous UNESCO criteria, the resulting lack of a well-presented historical documentation, of suitable protection, and of management of the sites in and around Salerno, is undeniable. So far, the project has supported the inclusion of the site in the European accredited cultural route Longobard Ways across Europe.


Associazione Longobardia
ArcheoClub di Montecorvino Rovella “Roberto Sguazzo”
Pro Loco Rovella
Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Province di Salerno e Avellino
Parrocchia dei S.s. Pietro e Nicola e S. Maria Assunta – Montecorvino Rovella (SA)
Comune di Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno)
University of Birmingham


LAMBERT Chiara Maria

Responsabile Scientifico

Dipartimento di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale/DISPAC

DELL'ACQUA Francesca

Responsabile Scientifico

Dipartimento di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale/DISPAC


Responsabile Scientifico

CAHA, School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham - Lecturer in Byzantine History


Responsabile Tecnico

Direzione Pianificazione Territoriale-Urbanistica, Città Metropolitana di Napoli - Local Network Facilitator



Dipartimento di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale/DISPAC



Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici/DIPSUM

Marielva TORINO


Dipartimento di Scienze Umanistiche, Università Suor Orsola Benincasa di Napoli - Medico specialista in Paleopatologia/Professore a contratto in Archeoantropologia (Scuola di Specializzazione in Beni Archeologici)


Collaboratore Esterno

Masaryk University, Brno - Professore Associato in Storia dell’Arte Medievale


Collaboratore Esterno

University of Birmingham - Dottore di ricerca in Storia e Archeologia Medievale


Collaboratore Esterno

Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Ambientali Biologiche e Farmaceutiche, Università della Campania ‘ Luigi Vanvitelli’ di Caserta - Professore Associato in Fisica applicata


Collaboratore Esterno

Archeologo specializzato libero professionista

Flavia VANNI

Collaboratore Esterno

University of Birmingham - Dottorando in Storia e Storia dell’Arte Bizantina


Collaboratore Esterno

University of Birmingham - Dottore di ricerca in Storia e Storia dell’Arte Bizantina


Collaboratore Esterno

Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici per le province di Brescia, Cremona e Mantova - Storico dell’arte, Conservatore


Collaboratore Esterno

CAHA, School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham - Professor in Archaeology and Visualisation

Alessandro CARABIA

Collaboratore Esterno

University of Birmingham and University of Leicester - Dottorando in Storia e Archeologia Medievale


Collaboratore Esterno

Archeologo specializzato libero professionista - esperto in rilievi digitali di strutture


Collaboratore Esterno

Storica dell’Arte, Restauratrice


Collaboratore Esterno

University of East Anglia - Professor Emeritus in History of Medieval Art

Beatrice LEAL

Collaboratore Esterno

University of East Anglia - Lecturer in Medieval Art History and Archaeology


Collaboratore Esterno

Academy of Sciences, Vienna - Senior Research Scholar
LogoAbsideMomentiChiesaLogo alphanus


LAMBERT Chiara Maria

DELL'ACQUA Francesca

Main ERC panel:

SH1–SH6 Social Sciences and Humanities

ERC keywords:

SH2_4 Myth, ritual, symbolic representations, religious studies

SH5_9 History of art and architecture

SH5_10 Cultural studies, cultural diversity

SH5_11 Cultural heritage, cultural memory

SH6_1 Archaeology, archaeometry, landscape archaeology

SH6_4 Medieval history

SH6_11 Cultural history, history of collective identities and memories


Langobardia minor; Carolingi; Bisanzio; culto dei santi; Vergine Maria; monachesimo; economia locale e transregionale; pittura e architettura altomedievali; chiese proprietarie; sepolture altomedievali

Funding & Sponsorship:

  • British Academy
  • Gerda Henkel Stiftung
  • DISPAC–Università di Salerno
  • Comune di Montecorvino Rovella

Prizes and awards:

“2020 European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards: Special Mentions – Category Research”

More significant publications related to the project:

  • Dell’Acqua, F., Foletti, I. Gheroldi, V., Leal, B. Marazzani, S., Mitchell, J. ‘Echoes of Milan in ninth-century Langobardia Minor? Preliminary findings on the painted programme of Sant'Ambrogio alla Rienna, Montecorvino Rovella (Salerno)’, Convivium4.2 (2017), 202-207
  • Dell’Acqua, F., Gheroldi, V., Marazzani, S., Lambert, C., Torino, M., Perciante, P., ‘La chiesa altomedievale di Sant’Ambrogio a Montecorvino Rovella (SA). Prima campagna di studi archeologici e storico-artistici’, Hortus Artium Medievalium24 (2018), 417–42
  • Dell’Acqua, F., ‘Iconophilia in Italy, c.680–880. A European project and its method’, IKON11 (2018), 31–46
  • Dell’Acqua, F. ‘Una pieve della Langobardia minor e il trionfo dell’Iconofilia? La Vergine come gnomon, in ‘Erat hoc sane mirabile in regno Langobardorum’, Insediamenti montani e rurali nell’Italia longobarda, alla luce degli ultimi studi, C. M. Lambert, F. Pastore (eds.), (Bari, 2019), 411-22
  • Reynolds, D., 'History and exegesis in the Itinerariumof Bernard the Monk (c.867)', Medieval Worlds10 (2019), 252–296. (IN FASE DI ACCREDITAMENTO, OPEN ACCESS AND INDICIZZATA SU Crossref, DOAJ, ERIH-PLUS e EZB)


langobardia minorcarolingibisanzioculto dei santivergine mariamonachesimoeconomia localeeconomia transregionalepittura altomedievalearchitettura altomedievalechiese proprietarieeigenkirchensepolture altomedievali