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Hermitage of St Jerome

Near the village of Pascelupo the splendid Hermitage stands on the eastern slope of Mount Cucco. It is dedicated to St Jerome, belonging to the Congregation of Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona. 

The building can be reached by taking the scenic road that connects Scheggia with Sassoferrato, crossing the Corno gorge. At the end of a small uphill road, the hermitage appears, in a splendid natural landscape with a steep rock wall as a backdrop.
 

The foundations on which the buildings of the hermitage and the old chapel of St Jerome rest, a closed cave with masonry, show medieval architectural elements, dating back to the 11th century. The hermitage consists of three main buildings and a series of secondary structures. The complex of medieval cells set into the rock and surrounded by beech and chestnut woods is very striking. 
 

If the presence in these parts of St Jerome, Doctor of the Church, is to be considered a pure legend, it is instead a plausible hypothesis to think that St Dominic Loricato (+1060) was one of its first inhabitants. At the end of the 13th century, Blessed Tommaso da Costacciaro chose it as a place of retreat and lived in solitude for 65 years.
 

A new chapter in the history of the Apennine hermitage began with the arrival of Blessed Paolo Giustiniani, who worked to ensure that his companions could retire to the hermitage of Monte Cucco. In 1521, Pope Leo X granted the Benedictine monk the use of the hermitage and from that year forward the place has been closely linked to the Congregation of Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona. The monks of this order are called Coronesi and wish to lead a more solitary and austere life than their Benedictine brethren.

In order to be able to live in this solitary place, separated from the inhabited world, the hermits themselves made some improvements by creating various spaces for daily use inside. In addition to the refectory, infirmary, guest quarters, a tailoring workshop and cellar, a library was built, where residents studied and gathered to make important decisions. Small terraced gardens were created outside, protected by stone walls and cultivated by the hermits. A space was dedicated to guests who came on religious or pastoral visits.

The tower in the centre of the building was half torn-down and the space for the internal church of the Hermitage was created at its base. The church was open only to men on Sundays and feast days. The women of the community of Sassoferrato were only allowed access to the Hermitage of San Girolamo twice a year, on the Tuesday after Easter, and on 30th September, the feast of St Jerome.

The hermits who lived in this place came from various countries, including Italy, Austria, Spain, France, and many were Polish. This happened because in 1605, the Justinian reform entered Poland and the noble Polish man Nicolò Wolski founded a hermitage in Krakow.

Curiosity
During the Second World War, the hermitage was again sought by the people of Pascelupo and Perticano as a refuge from artillery and air fire. About fifty people, who had also come from Fabriano, stayed up here for over half a month, seeking refuge in the sacristy of the church, which had remained intact, and in the caves of the mountain. Once the fury of the war had passed, the path of destruction accelerated and the hermitage became a heap of rubble, until 1981 when restoration work began, allowing the Camaldolese hermits to reopen the hermitage in 1992.

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