Tempio del Valadier - Santa Maria di Frasassi - Infrasaxa

Grotte di Frasassi

Useful Information

Tempio del Valadier, Italy. Public Domain.
Location: Leave Autostrada A14 at exit Ancona Nord, follow Superstrada (dual carriagway) towards Rome for 45km to exit Genga/Sassofarrato. 61km from Ancon, 50km from the Autostrada. Follow signposts to Grotta Grabde del Vento, then proceed towards Genga. About 500m behind the entrance to Grotta Grande del Vento, parking right. 800m walk and 150m ascend.
Open: no restrictions. [2007]
Fee: free [2007]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SubterraneaCave Church.
Light: Not necessary for churches. Bring electric torch for cave.
Guided tours: speleological tours to the cave.
Address: Grotte di Frasassi, Largo Leone XII°, I-60040 Genga, (Ancona), Tel: +39-0732-97211, Fax: +39-0732-972001.
Grotte di Frasassi, Consorzio Frasassi, I-60040 Genga, Ancona, Italia, Tel: +39-0732-973039 or 973001, Fax +39-0732-973397.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1828 chapel built.


This site is a complex of caves and churches, which gave all the caves of this area the collective name Grotte di Frasassi. Frasassi is not a town, but the place, or better the name of one church.

A natural cave entrance called Grotta del Santuario with a small church inside gave the area its modern name. This church was called Santa Maria intra saxa or infrasaxa which is latin and means in the rocks. This name was difficult for the locals, and so it was modified from infra saxa to frasassi during the centuries. This church is really small, and was built under a small overhanging rock at the far end of the huge cave portal.

This exceptional place is located in the Gola di Frassasi (Gorge of Frasassi), a narrow gorge between Genga railroad station and Genga. At the railroad station is the huge parking lot of Grotta Grande del Vento, the impressive show cave. Driving into the gorge we reach the show cave entrance, built into the steep rock walls of the gorge. It is easy to understand, why they built the parking lot outside the gorge, there is absolutlely no room, even the bus station is narrow and short. But following the gorge, the road crosses the river and there is a parking lot on the right side. Here a wide, paved, but steep path to the cave churches starts. It is a little strenous, 20 minutes walk uphill, but it is really worth the effort.

At the end of the path we reach a sort of amphitheatre high up in the middle of the vertical cliff face. The first cave entrance is really huge with an octagonal chapel built inside. Then there is a second portal with a short cave which goes in only 50m. At the far end is the small chapel we already descibed above.

The huge portal is called Grotta della Beata Vergine di Frasassi and is the entrance to the Grande Antro del Mezzogiorno. The chapel is called Tempio del Valadier as it was built by the Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier. He was a chief exponent of Neoclassicism in Italy. It was commissioned by Pope Leone XII (1760-1829), whose former name was Annibale Sermattei and who originated from Genga. After he became pope in 1823 he tried to develop his old home. He also developed the agriculture of the area.

The chapel has an exception octagonal form, was built of travertine, redeposited limestone from karst water, which was quarried inside the cave behind. The has a roof, not really necessary inside the cave, which is a cuppola covered by lead. The altar was made of alabaster, and the statue of Mary with the Child was made of Carrara marble by Antonio Canova. During the construction of the cave a lot of cave sediments were removed. There was no archaeological excavation but the discovery of various human remains, probably of prehistoric origin was made. There were the bones of several humans, including children, ovens for baking bread, two stores of grains, and some coins. Obviously the coins were from the Bronce or Iron Age. Pagnani described the findings and interpreted them as the remains of people who sought refuge from the "raids of Barbarians, especially the Ungheri". The findings are on display in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche di Ancona (National Archaeological Museum of the Marches in Ancona).

The cave behind the temple is a huge system and is guided by the show cave administration in cave trekking trips. So it is rather common to see groups of cavers in overall, helmet and wellingtons to enter the cave cave behind the temple, or leave it after a several hour long trip. The cave has various entrances and is often toured as a through cave.