A watchful eye on the Tagliamento
Going down from Piazza Duomo towards the Tagliamento, you come across the Ancona Church.
Originally, the church was dedicated to Saint Sabbata (or Sabida), a non-existent saint of pre-Christian cults, protector of rivers. In 1597, it was dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy (whose feast is celebrated on the 24th of September), invoked against the perils of the Tagliamento ford. The building we see today replaced a capital, which was expanded and turned into a church in 1672 using the materials of the Church of Saint Jerome in Saletto, which had been destroyed by a Tagliamento flood.
In 1687, it was expanded with a loggia to accommodate a increasingly larger number of attendees.
Later, the church was restored and expanded several times until 1968, when the new altar and the statue of Saint Rita were consecrated and blessed by the Bishop, Monsignor Carniello.
In 1976, it was destroyed by the earthquake but it returned to its original splendour in 1978.
Today, it is a plain rectangular-plan single-nave church. Outside, you can admire a beautiful portico supported by five columns. The steeple stands midway on the left. Inside, there is the polychrome marble altar and a late 15th-century fresco depicting the Madonna and Child and two angels.
The church of lovers
This is where merchants and pilgrims would meet, as they had to pass here to ford the Tagliamento after paying the fee to reach Gemona, Venzone or continue to Germany.
For those who arrived in Spilimbergo fording the river, it was the place of worship where to invoke the Virgin Mary for protection against the most frequent perils (loss of cargo, injuries, drowning). For this reason, believers would place their ex-voto in the form of painted panels, as an offering and a sign of devotion (now, kept in the parish archive).
The Ancona Church was a place where to meet, trade, and pray.
Its beauty and romantic view of the Tagliamento led the locals to consider it the church of lovers.