Facciata_Chiesa_di_Sant'Erasmo_Porto_Ercole_(GR)-Matteo-VinattieriDedicated to the patron saint of sailors, this understated church was enlarged in the 17th century, but its current faded cream facade and detailed gables were added in later centuries.

The church itself is not going to blow you away, quaint and charming as it is. Instead it draws visitors for the tombstones of noted Spanish officials that are housed inside it. After their victory in Porto Ercole and the Argentario Coast, the Spanish built a lot of churches and started a lot of religious festivals and events, some of which are still held today.

Their intention was to both cement their power in the area and placate the locals by giving into local culture and design. The Chiesa di Sant'Erasmo is a great example of this. On the surface it looks like any other picturesque Italian country church, but the Spanish just couldn't resist adding a few personal touches.

In this case, it was the tombstones. Made out of marble and carved with Spanish inscriptions and various coats of arms, they are exquisitely detailed and extremely refined.

Watching over all of these is a 19th century painting of Sant'Andrea Apostolo. A beautiful piece of modern Italian religious art, it adds a gorgeous burst of colour to the room.

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, have a wander around the church gardens and cemetery. Locals say the very famous Italian painter Caravaggio is buried somewhere here in an unmarked grave.

The Chiesa di Sant'Erasmo is rarely open, so if want to save yourself a wasted walk, check at the tourist information centre in Piazza Roma beforehand.

Photo: Matteo Vinattieri via Wikipedia.

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