Mausoleums

Abbeys, churches, mausoleums in the Marche region
VII-X century

1. Abbeys

During the Middle Ages, Longobard and Frankish lords built numerous abbeys. We have the Merovingian abbey of Our Lady of Jouarre, for example, established by the nobleman Authaire and his consort Aiga in 630-635 in the department of Seine-et-Marne in present-day France. The abbey has a mausoleum-crypt containing the sarcophagi in which lie the remains of its founders. Abbo, Patrician of Provence under Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) founded the abbey of Novalese in the Italian region of Piedmont. Guillaume d’Aquitaine, also known as William, who was Charlemagne’s cousin and general, founded the abbey of Gellone. And these are but three examples.


1. Abbey of Gellone at Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, France, VIII century

A large number of documents from the Early Middle Ages testify to the fact that these abbeys were not founded merely out of generosity, but were meant to serve the families of their high-born benefactors: the monks supplied them with forage and anything they might request, as well as maintaining roads, controlling traffic and, as we will see, attending to defunct members of the founding family.
In the Marche region, if you find yourself near an abbey or a place where one is known to have stood, all you have to do is look up and you will see the ruins of a fortress on a nearby hill, or a small town built on the ruins of a castle, belonging to the family who established the abbey.

From this we can surmise that this way of organising the territory was customary in the Marche.

On its website, the Marche Region mentions 96 abbeys: 52 are open to visitors and 44 are no longer standing, but still give their name to the surrounding area. These figures may have been underestimated.
As a rule, Benedictine abbeys were destroyed from the XII century onwards, often by the Cistercians, during the military campaign waged by the Catholic Church against the Marche region. This state of civil war lasted for centuries. Benedictine abbeys supported imperial claims and were destroyed for political reasons. One example of this is the fate of the Abbey of Santa Croce al Chienti, founded by Ludovic the Pious for Benedict of Aniane. The veritable war fought by the Cistericans, resulting in the destruction of abbeys and murder of their monks, is attested to by authentic documents.
The abbeys generally contained a mausoleum. I visited and researched these mausoleums with Luigi Papa during the Spring/Summer of 2014. In 2015, I published my book in English, “Charlemagne The Dark Secret”. We resumed our research on mausoleums in 2016 in order to publish it.
We visited close to fourty mausoleums, though more probably exist. It is not unusual to see windows under churches with apses which cannot be accessed, and these could well be undiscovered mausoleums. They were usually built at ground level; not, as many think, below ground. In fact, all of them have windows facing the outside. We will speak of these further.


2. San Vittore delle Chiuse, Genga

2. Churches

The Picenum territory, focus of our research, has some Longobard churches which are difficult to recognise as such as they lack defining features. We have, instead, located numerous typical Carolingian or pseudo-carolingian churches.

There are at least four authentic Carolingian churches dating from that era in the Picenum:
– San Claudio al Chienti at Corridonia,
– Santa Maria delle Moie at Moie di Maiolati Spontini,
– San Vittore delle Chiuse at Genga,
– Santa Croce dei Conti at Sassoferrato.

These four churches all have the same square floor plan and the same features as the oratory of Germigny-des-Prés near Orléans. Documents dating from the Early Middle Ages prove that this Church was built by Theodulf, a member of the court of Charlemagne, in 803, on the same model as the palatine chapel of Aquisgrana. Please note that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the cathedral of Aachen in Germany, the official site of Aquisgrana. We can conclude that they were built in the same era, under the guiding hand of Charlemagne.


3. Germigny-des-Prés, Orléans (photo by Angela Schulze Raestrup)

These buildings share the following characteristics:
– the above-mentioned square plan,
– four pilasters dividing the space into 9 units,
– stone-built groin vaults,
– three semicircular apses in the choir; the central one being larger than the other two, often with an extra apse on each side of the nave,
– the entrance door is placed on the wall opposite the choir apses,
– double splayed slit windows,
– windows are generally found to the right and doors to the left of the centre of the wall they occupy,
– hanging arches, also known as Lombard bands, under the roof,
– two towers leading to the roof,
– rooves which were probably flat,
– a dome or roof lantern on the roof,
– pilaster strips on the outside walls.

Dotted around the Marche region there are several small churches dating from the same period, often with a single apse. They are typically pre-Cluny and of modest dimensions. Some of them may have been mausoleums which were later converted into chapels.
Confronted with the same situation in their own country (opposite the Picenum coastline), Croatian archeologists and architectural historians, in particular Miljenko Jurković, have concluded that many Croatian carolingian churches and mausoleums were built by the families of Frankish dignitaries. This is exactly what we find in the Marche Region. As a matter of fact, some of the mausoleums on either side of the Adriatic are identical.

In Europe, all the churches dating from the Middle Ages have tombs set in the ground, covered by tombstones or sarcophagi. But in the Picenum we find no tombs or sarcofagi dating from the same time as the construction of the church. We know that the four churches mentioned above had tombs in the ground, with tombstones, but everything has been covered over with modern flooring. We know that this has been done because the bases of the columns or pilasters are underground and can no longer be seen.

Finally, there are some medieval churches with vaguely Carolingian features. These, while conserving some typical Carolingian characteristics such as three apses in the choir, date from a few centuries later. They usually stand over a mausoleum in a castle or abbey which no longer exists. Often, the mausoleum will have been damaged during the construction of the Church above. Sustaining walls have been added on (Valfucina, San Marco di Fiastra) and at times the volume is reduced (as in the case of Pievebovigliana and Santa Maria delle Macchie). Some times, the Church covers only a part of the mausoleum (see San Costanzo di Sarnano, San Biagio di Serra Sant’Abbondio) and the apses which are no longer part of the church have remained, unprotected, on the outside.


4. One of the apses in San Biagio, Serra Sant’Abbondio, outside the church

3. Mausoleums which have been converted into churches or crypts

Let us take a closer look at an occurrence unique to the Picenum: mausoleums which have been converted into crypts.
Wikipedia’s definition of a crypt is surprising:
“In modern terms, a crypt is a stone chamber or closed space containing the tombs of important persons. (…) usually found inside cemeteries and religious buildings, and occasionally on personal estates. Wealthy or prestigious families often have a “family crypt”. In some places, a crypt built above ground level is called a mausoleum”.
“(…) Occasionally, churches were built above ground level in order to add a crypt” (that is to say, a mausoleum).

This architectural style is very frequently seen in the Picenum. We will subsequently examine proof that the overhanging Church was built AFTER the mausoleum.

But let us return to Wikipedia:
“(…) crypts were introduced into Frankish Church building in the mid-8th centruy, as a feature of its Romanization. Their popularity then spread more widely in western Europe under Charlemagne. Examples from this period are most common in the early medieval West, for exampple in Burgundy at Dijon and Tournus. After the 10th century the early medieval requirements of a crypt faded, (…). By the Gothic period crypts were rarely built”.

Indeed, the 10th century saw the appearance of Saxon emperors who did not share the same cultural traditions as the Franks.


5. Mausoleum of Our Lady of Jouarre, France, VII century
and sarcophagi belonging to its founders

The mausoleums of the Picenum are generally built at ground level and have windows. The original structure had its own entrance.
Often, a church was built over the mausoleum, thus transforming it into a crypt. Today you enter the mausoleum, now a crypt, by going down modern stairs, from the church.
In other cases, mausoleums with a square or round plan have been converted into churches by adding a nave and removing their tombs and sarcophagi (San Paolino at Falerone, Santa Maria Piè di Chienti). The case of San Paolo is indicative, as its tombs were destroyed during the period of time running from 2011 to its “re-opening to the public” in 2015. I happen to have photographs of the tombs, violated and ruined, which I took from one of the open windows in 2011. This column and its capital also disappeared during the “restoration”.


6. San Paolino at Falerone – Tombs in the square-plan choir and apse, now destroyed

The forty-odd mausoleums of Frankish and Longobard origin date to a period running from 650 to 950AD. There are two exceptions: the mausoleum probably belonging to the Byzatine emperor Leo 1° and the Hohenstaufen mausoleum at Muccia.

1 – Abbazia di Rambona (Pollenza)
2 – Camposanto Isola (San Severino Marche)
3 – Madonna della Pieve di San Zenone (Gagliole)
4 – Oratorio San Biagio (collegiata di S. Ginesio)
5 – Pieve (San Leo)
6 – San Biagio (Serra Sant’ Abbondio)
7 – San Biagio all’Isola (Montemonaco)
8 – San Costanzo di Sarnano (Gualdo)
9 – San Marco di Fiastra (Colvenale di Pievebovigliana)
10 – Sant’Angelo in Montespino (Monfortino)
11 – Sant’Angelo in Piano (Carassai)
12 – Sant’Urbano (Apiro)
13 – Santa Maria a Piè di Chienti (Montecosaro Scalo, probabilmente bizantino)
14 – Santa Maria Assunta (Pievebovigliana)
15 – Santa Maria delle Macchie (San Ginesio)
16 – Santa Maria di Pistia (Serravalle)
17 – Santa Maria in Valfucina (Elcito di San Severino Marche)
18 – San Lorenzo in Doliolo (San Severino Marche)
19 – Valle San Benedetto (Montecavallo)
20 – Abbazia dei Santi Anastasio e Vincenzo (Amandola)
21 – Abbazia dei Santi Ruffino e Vitale (Amandola)
22 – Muccia (mausoleo probabilmente Hohenstaufen)
23 – San Firmano (Montelupone)
24 – Tuseggia (Camerino)
25 – Morro (Camerino)
26 – San Venanzo (Camerino)
27 – Madonna della Pieve (Gagliole)
28 – Sant’Ugolino di Fiegni (Fiastra)
29 – Abbazia di San Biaggio di Piobbico (Sarnano)
30 – Fiordimonte
31 – Campolarzo di Caldarola
32 – San Silvestro (Monte Roberto)
33 – Santo Stefano (Roccafluvione)
34 – San Quirico (Lapedona)
35 – San Lorenzo (Lapedona)
36 – San Paolino (Falerone, il coro quadrato con abside)
37 – Santa Vittoria in Matenano
38 – Santa Elena (Serra San Quirico)

Mausoleums placed under churches which celebrate Sunday mass can be visited just before or during the religious rite. Pay attention to the timetable, because the churches are locked after the service. For other churches, the local municipality must be contacted. Some others cannot be seen, such as Valle San Benedetto in Montecavallo, because it is closed.

Over time, these buildings have been altered and their use has often been changed. We therefore find ourselves in the presence of different types of mausoleums, without taking into consideration the fact that the buildings may have naturally sunk into the ground over time.
As a rule of thumb, each mausoleum is unique, and the history of its location has contributed to its present condition.

Many crypts have been built using reclaimed Roman material, so it is not amiss to assume that a Roman temple once stood in the vicinity.
They often have filled-in walls (as in Valfucina and Pievebovigliana), showing they were once open-sided (as in the case of some Croatian mausoleums) and that they were part of an abbey or castle (Pievebovigliana). The “castle” at Pievebovigliana could once have been an abbey. Carolingian mausoleums have stone-built groin vaults, like the Carolingian churches of which we have spoken.

How should the mausoleums be dated?

The official dates given to these buildings are, generally speaking, inaccurate and far-fetched. Two mausoleums have been dated credibly: the first is Santo Stefano at Roccafluvione. This mausoleum is dated to the VIII-IX century and was once part of a Carolingian farfense abbey which no longer exists. It had its own entrance and until the 1960s, its tombs could also be seen. The overhanging church is XII century.

The second mausoleum which has been dated credibly can be found at Rambona. It was recognised as Carolingian by Professor Federico Guidobaldi, La Sapienza University, Rome, for CNR. This can be confirmed by the ivory dyptych currently in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library, which can be seen on the internet at http://www.cartacanta.org and http://www.pro-rambona.it. The dyptych bears the wording: Cenobio Rambona Ageltruda Construxi (the ‘t’ of the third person singular is missing), or “Ageltrude built the abbey of Rambona”.


7. Abbey of Rambona

Empress Ageltrude was the daughter of the Longobard duke of Beneventum, wife to Charlemagne’s great-grandson, Count Guido Vidoni of Camerino, elected Emperor on the death of his cousin Charles III, also known as Charles the Fat. The mausoleum has been dated to a later Carolingian period, 895 circa.
In truth, the Empress rebuilt the Benedictine abbey after it was destroyed by Saracens in 881. The first Carolingian church was built over an ancient sanctuary, probably Picene, dedicated to the god Ra and the goddess Bona (Rambona).
The new abbey was dedicated to Saint Gregory, Silvester and Flavian then handed over to the abbot, Olderic. Contrary to popular belief, the Empress never lived in Rambona, as it was a monastery.
Of the abbey built by Ageltrude only ruins remain, seeing as it was conquered and later destroyed by the Cistercians at an unknown date, though subsequent to their arrival in the Picenum in 1140.


8. Dyptych of Rambona

The Empress rebuilt the original Carolingian Church, adding a façade with three apses 10 metres in front of the original structure, thus using the remains of the Carolingian church and a Roman temple presumed to be in the vicinity to create a marvellous space destined for use as a mausoleum.
Inside the building, the capitals are typically Carolingian and are decorated with palms, eagles and Chaldean monsters (symbols of death), confirming we are in the presence of a mausoleum.

The Carolingian church had three semi-circular apses and one nave. The two small lateral apses were shrines (sacella) communicating with the main nave via two large openings. The sacella still partially exist. The few remaining windows are slit with double splays. The main semi-circular apse, 7 metres wide, was demolished in the XIX when the mausoleum was enlarged to use it as a church.
It was probably towards 1810-20, when this work was being carried out, that a « pagan » sarcophagus, holding a mysterious corpse came to light. The identity of the corpse was so shocking that the Bishop of Macerata, Vincenzo Maria Strambi, was informed of it immediately. The sarcophagus was collected and vanished into thin air. The name of this important person, who probably owned the mausoleum, never crossed the Bishop’s lips. But we are speaking of an open secret: if the burial place of Emperor Guido Vidoni of Camerino is found in Parma, its exact whereabouts unknown, the sarcophagus found in Rambona must belong to Emperor Lamberto Vidoni of Camerino, son of Empress Ageltrude and Emperor Guido.
Vincenzo Maria Strambi was canonized.


9. Mausoleum of Rambona

Rambona can help us understand how and when the mausoleums, later called crypts, were built, as the remains of Rambona have been officially dated.
The important thing is that this mausoleum is not sunken. It stands at ground level and has its own private entrance, much as the other mausoleums of the Picene must have been.

We have two clear pieces of evidence that prove without a doubt that the mausoleums were built hundreds of years before the “pseudo Carolingian” churches that now stand over them:
– The first is that some of these churches have not included the whole mausoleum in their construction. In San Costanzo at Sarnano the semi-circular apse can clearly be seen outside the walls of the overhanging Church. At San Biagio, Serra Sant’Abbondio, only the central apse has been included in the main body of the church, while the lateral parts have been left outside, unprotected.
– The second piece of evidence is that many mausoleums (about one third of them) were partially destroyed in order to build the stairs connecting the nave of the new church to the choir which overhangs the mausoleum itself (Pievebovigliana – Santa Maria delle Macchie). Building these overhanging churches meant having to add sustaining walls, often cutting into the mausoleum underneath and damaging it (Valfucina). After all, the churches with a choir that is vaguely Carolingian have no other architectural elements we find in churches that were definitely built in Charlemagne’s time.

Therefore, we find ourselves in the presence of mausoleums that are called crypts because they have been “incorporated” and hidden by the very church that stands over them today. Originally, access to the mausoleum was from the outside, directly from the abbey or castle, no longer standing. The entrance was opposite the three apses or from the side if it was open.
Lack of space and an abundance of columns prevented the celebration of religious rites. They were not, therefore, a place of worship but were meant to house the remains of nobles in sarcofagi or tombs…


10. Mausoleum of Pievebovigliana (drawing by Luigi Papa)

Today’s French mausoleums contain tombs and/or sarcophagi. The Merovingian mausoleum of Our Lady of Jouarre still holds the remains of its founders.
On the contrary, the fourty-odd mausoleums listed for the Marche region are completely EMPTY, and have no apparent use. Here and there a statue or altar has been inserted, but they are clearly not original.
Documents dating from the Middle Ages qualify these mausoleums as “pagan”. Amongst others, the building in Sant’Angelo in Montespino. The fact they were pagan is one of the reasons given by the Catholic Churchto to justify their possession. Possession and destruction of pagan temples by the Catholic clergy is one of the issues that plagued the first centuries of our historical era. The Byzantine emperor Julian (331-363), his entourage and other Byzantine authors spoke of it in negative terms. Between the IV and VII centuries many writers speak of the persecution of pagans and the destruction and/or pillage of their places of worship.

The fact that some of these mausoleums were considered pagan and the many allusions to the god Mithra I came across during my research on archaeological sites and churches in the Marche region and other places in Central Italy, for example in Assisi, opens things up to a new interpetation. It seems the Franks converted to Christianity under Pepin the Young (a.k.a. the Short) and Charlemagne. No sooner. We are always told it was King Clovis (466-511) who converted to Christianity. This is possible, but he was not followed by his noblemen and subjects.
The passage from one god to another might have been made easier by the fact that Mithras and Jesus Christ had a lot of characteristics in common, the mythical figure of Jesus having been copied from the millenial god Mithras.
As I have not yet researched this aspect properly, I do not feel like commenting any further on the subject.

History tells us that the archbishop of Fermo, Alessandro Borgia (1682-1764), visited in the XVIII century with his entourage and insisted on having two tombs in the apse of the “pagan” mausoluem of Sant’Angelo in Montespino (Montefortino) destroyed in his presence, as well as removing all the tombstones. Apart from human remains, a small wooden box was discovered. This was also made to disappear. The box tells us we were in the presence of a corpse of some importance.
Noone can seriously think that the Archbishop of Fermo came all the way to this forgotten hilltop town in the Sibillini mountains, as if it was a rich diocese, and had its tombs opened and destroyed on a whim. The tombstones, which have now vanished, obviously bore the names of the deceased, as well as their seals.
During the recent restoration work carried out on the church of Sant’Angelo in Montespino by the Archaeological Dept. of the Marche Region, lots of stones with inscriptions, bas-reliefs and other pieces of great worth disappeared.

Another example of a box is the metal one which was found, during the restoration works carried out in 1926, at the feet of the weathy blond warrior who was buried with his weapons in San Claudio al Chienti, Corridonia. These might have been the remains of Emperor Otto III. The tomb which was found under the floor was destroyed and its contents scattered under the new floor to the right of the altar. The remains were seen on radar images by the engineer Alberto Morresi during a 2014 inspection.
What were these boxes for? They probably held the seals used to sign official documents, belonging to the deceased. As the seals had a legal significance, they could no longer be used after the death of their owner.


11. Mausoleum of Sant’Angelo di Montespino

The mausoleums, too opulent to be completely destroyed, speak of a highly-organised territory defended by military castles – almost each having its own abbey and family mausoleum.
Here are a few examples: the mausoleum of Valfucina, probably Frankish and part of a now-vanished Benedictine abbey, stands under the fortress of Elcito (San Severino Marche). The (probably) Longobard Church and mausoleum at Sant’Angelo in Piano is below the fortress of Montevarmine d’Aso, and that of San Marco di Fiastra, probably Frankish, is close to the fortress of Col Venale, etc.

We would like to concentrate on three particularly representative mausoleums.


12. Sarcophagus of Emperor Leo I, Sant’Elpidio a Mare

The church of Santa Maria Piè di Chienti at Montecosaro Scalo

This suggestive ancient building has been in the Cluny style III (X-XI century) since…1927-1928! If pictured without its apses and central nave, what remains is a typical Byzantine imperial mausoleum on two levels. Not surprisingly, until “restoration work” was carried out in 1827-28 by the Superintendent for Archaeological Heritage Luigi Serra, this was known as a “pagan” mausoleum.
There was a sweeping case going to the upper level on the outside of the building as wide as the modern building’s transept and which once held the imperial sarcophagus. Serra wrote in a book he published that he “added two cases with 22 steps (on the sides) to replace the (original) case that was as wide as the church”.

We even know which Emperor this tomb belonged to, as a splendid red marble Roman sarcophagus can be found, as if by chance, a few kilometres away in the collegiate church of S. Elpidio, in the main square. The sarcophagus has been identified as that of Emperor Leo I (411-474), he of the large, bulging eyes.

The Mausoleum of Santa Maria in Valfucina

This building stands in a truly wild valley. The rocky outcrop with a few houses and a ruined defensive tower standing over the mausoleum is all that remains of the fortress of Elcito.
This small square “pagan” mausoleum has a semi-circular apse circa 7 metres wide, and four supporting columns. Standing against the wall of the apse, it also has four columns separated by three windows. Two of its windows have been blocked up, but the third is a double-splayed slit window. There are eight columns inside, against the external walls, but the walls linking them are thinner that the walls of the apse. Therefore, these walls were added later and are not original. The mausoleum was open-sided. The fact that its three windows are on the apse suggests that the mausoleum was once part of a building with larger walls. It was therefore part of an abbey which has since been destroyed. The windows and entrance door on the far wall are decentralised, a characteristic we have already mentioned.


13. Mausoleum of Valfucina

The capitals of the four columns in the semi-circular apse show, from left to right, the long, fine-featured face of a man with a smile on his lips, and a woman with an oval face. On one side of the third there is a bird (a woodpecker?) and on the other, a bull’s head (a Longobard or Frankish symbol?).
The capital of the fourth column shows a monster, probably Chaldean, as a symbol of death, which confirms its use as a mausoleum. It is possible to assume a couple was buried in this mausoleum: probably the lords of Elcito, who, according to information we have discovered (in the museum of San Severino Marche), were also the Counts of Truschia.
The Church which stood over this marvellous building was damaged in the earthquake of 1799. Its reconstruction has brought even more irreparabile damage to it due to the placing of enormous supports right in the centre of the enchanting, fragile mausoleum belonging to this family of the Early Middle Ages.
A coat of arms bearing the initials L. and P. was carved into a stone on the façade of the church. The coat of arms shows a sun in the aryan tradition of the Sun God (Mithra) who stands over all; underneath, the feminine symbol of the eight-pointed star and waxing moon. The initials L. and P. were carved into the stone centuries later by a descendant: Liberatus Prior, “secret butler” to Pope Innocent VIII.


14. Stone in the façade of the Church which stands over the mausoleum of Valfucina. On the top left, see the flat-headed letter A and the acute letter O. (Photo by Luigi Papa)


15. Merovingian sarcophagus of the noblewoman Chrodoara (634), detail, Amay –
University of Liege

There is another, older stone on the façade, bearing inscriptions that are hard to decipher. Two letters can be seen clearly. They are identical to the letters on the VII century Merovingian sarcophagus of Chrodoara, discovered in Amay near Liege in Belgium. An acute O, formed by the intersection “…of two curved lines”, and an A “with a flat head”, as described by Professor Jacques Stiennon of the University of Liege.

The mausoleum of Santa Maria Assunta at Pievebovigliana

The third mausoleum we will look at in detail is in the town of Pievebovigliana in the remains of the castle (or abbey) which was destroyed in 1528 on the orders of Catherine Cybo, niece of Pope Innocent VIII, and is actually within the historical city centre. It was probably built to house the remains of the family who once occupied the castle. Now called a crypt, it lies underneath the church of Santa Maria Assunta and is reached by two lateral cases inside the main body of the Church.

In recent years, the mausoleum was used as a deposit by a local farmer. As the mausoleum and church had not yet been joined together, he used an outside entrance to the mausoleum, but Monsignor Campelli had the cases built in 1926.

Before entering the buildings surrounding the mausoleum, it is plain to see that they were built in various phases and it is also clear they have often been tampered with. It can also be seen that, probably around the mid-18th century, when the current belltower was built, the central apse was englobed by a wider construction to allow space for the choir in the upper building. The original walls of the apse are still clearly visible. This technique can be seen in other churches, like Sant’Angelo in Piano (Carassai) and Santa Croce dei Conti (Sassoferrato).


16. Mausoleum of Pievebovigliana

On entering the mausoleum, the first thing that stands out are the four pilasters and twenty-odd columns that divide an area of about 216 sqm, making the celebration of religious rites a little difficult. Around one third of the space has been taken up by the cases that now link the nave on the ground floor to the raised choir. The original square plan is now rectangular. The missing part of the mausoleum is opposite the semi-circular apses, presumably where the original entrance to the mausoleum was placed.

Proof that this mausoleum has been partially destroyed is given by the four central pilasters, which are no longer in the centre of the room. The wall holding up the stairs was built against two of them.
The original measurements of this magnificent, opulent mausoleum must have been equivalent to about 30×30 Syrian cubits.
Its walls and ceiling were probably covered entirely in frescoes, though they were subsequently whitewashed. Around 1975, the stone was uncovered and the original frescoes were destroyed. The ceilings were probably decorated with a starry sky (like in the mausoleum of Santa Maria alle Macchie), as is shown by a fragment which was recycled to build a new window on the front of the building (south side).
The stone ceilings are typical of Carolingian churches and mausoleums.
The modern floor has been laid over the original, covering the bases of the columns and pilasters completely, and we can assume they covered any tombstones that were there, too.
Based on its characteristics, we can deduct it was built between 780 to 810 AD.


17. Mausoleum of Valfucina at Elcito, San Severino Marche.
Face of the Count of Truschia or an ancestor (Photo by Luigi Papa)

NOTES

– The abbey of Santa Croce al Chienti destroyed by the Cistercians: Accardo, Anna Maria, I documenti di Santa Croce nelle carte dell’archivio di Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Associazione Santa Croce, Sant’Elpidio a Mare, 2009.
– Miljenko Jurković. Bertelli, Carlo and Brogiolo, Gian Pietro and Jurković, Miljenko and Matejčić, Ivan e Milošević, Ante and Stella, Clara, Bizantini, Croati, Carolingi. Alba e tramonto di regni e imperi, Milano, Skira Editore, 2001, pp. 151 and following.
– Un segreto di pulcinella: article by Antonella Ventura, published in the magazine Emmaus, year XXVII, no. 16, 21 April 2012.
– Sarcophagi at Sant’Angelo in Montespino: the local historian Onorato Diamanti discovered these historical sources in Papiri Pievano Pacifico, Inventario 1848 in the archive of the church of San Michele Angelo, Montefortino.
Diamanti, Onorato, Inediti Fortinesi, Montefortino, published by Centro Studi Fortunato Duranti, 1998, pp. 88-91.
– King Clovis (466-511). History tells us that it was St. Eleutherius, resident of Tournai, Belgium, city of the king, who was responsible for the king’s conversion. The remains of Eleutherius are kept in the iron casket in the altar of the collegiate church in the main square of San Ginesio.
– Byzantine Emperor Leo I. The sarcophagus was identified by the architect Medardo Arduino and is at Sant’Elpidio a Mare.
– Serra, Luigi, L’arte nelle Marche: dalle origini cristiane alla fine del gotico, G. Federici, 1929
– Sarcophagus of Chrodoara. Discovery of the sarcophagus in Amay, province of Liege, January 1977. Stiennon, Jacques, Le sarcophage de sancta Chrodoara à Saint-Georges d’Amay, 1977.
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/crai_0065-0536_1979_num_123_1_13555#