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The remains of an ancient medieval church overlook the clear sea in the heart of the Amalfi Coast: it is Saint Eustachio's Cathedral, a wonderful remnant of a glorious past.

by Roberta Cascone

In the town of Scala, the oldest of the Amalfi Coast, the remains of a cathedral stand on a cliff overlooking the sea: they belonged to Saint Eustachio's Cathedral, whose medieval vestiges create a suggestive and charming scenario. Being a tangible proof of the medieval past of Scala, it is evidence of both a period of great splendor and of the way the Romanesque art spread on the Coast. This is why this place still attracts so many fans of history, architecture and all the people who are not afraid of walking along a steep path in order to enjoy a unique view.

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  • Saint Eustachio's Cathedral

The history of the Cathedral

The tradition says that Scala was founded in the 4th century by some Romans who shipwrecked on the Amalfi Coast while traveling towards Constantinople. It became a fortified bastion of the marinar Duchy of Amalfi and, during the Middle Ages, it also became an episcopal see. Among the many churches that were built here, Saint Eustachio's Cathedral was erected right on the path that connects Scala to Amalfi, passing through the Pontone district with approximately 3000 steps, extended along 3 km. It goes back to the 12th century and it was built on the order of the D'Afflitto family, that claimed to descend from the roman martyr Saint Eustachio himself, and whose name would refer to the very “afflictions” that the saint had to suffer. The history of the cathedral is tightly bound to the noble D'Afflitto family's one: in fact, after the decline of the coastal towns, the D'Afflittos were forced to move to Naples, Puglia and Sicily and the church was consequently abandoned too. Only in 1993 the Superintendence of Salerno carried out a restoration work in order to salvage the vestiges of the cathedral and to bring it back to its original splendor.


Cathedral's Ruins

A unique sight

Saint Eustachio's Cathedral is an example of Romanesque architecture, therefore it possesses its features: it is made up of three naves and an entrance colonnade, a transept and three cylindrical apses. Like any other medieval church, it is east-oriented and it also has an underlying crypt. The exterior part of the apses is decorated by intertwined arches which are ochre and light blue and reveal an Arabic influence.
Along the side walls there were openings that let the sunlight through. Originally, the naves were separated by marble columns with classical capitals, and a few examples are still visible, lying on the ground.
However, the most fascinating aspect of the cathedral is its position: erected on top of Mount Aureo and positioned just on the edge of the cliff, the church offers a breathtaking view of the sea of the Amalfi Coast.

  • In 2010 the Capware company made a video of a virtual reconstruction of Saint Eustachio's Cathedral, showing also all the phases of the restoration works carried out by the Superintendence of Salerno. The aim of the project was to bring the cathedral back to its 12th century original appearance. To do so, the architects used a tridimensional model with which they were able to examine all the transformations that the church went through during the centuries.
    Thanks to this video ( see above) we can admire again some of the elements that have disappeared, such as the Arabic-Norman bell tower, the façade and the details of the double-arched windows.

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