sovana-chiesa Gabriele TudicoShifted from its original position in Sovana to make way for the Palazzo Bourbon del Monte, the Chiesa di Santa Maria is famous for its pre-Romanesque stone tabernacle, which is the only one of its kind in Tuscany.

A conical dome with an octagonal base, the tabernacle is held up by Corinthian columns that are carved with plant and floral motifs.

The tabernacle may be the star of the show, but it's in good company.

From the moment you walk inside the church you can immediately feel the transition between the Gothic exterior and Romanesque interior.

Inside the church is divided into three naves with squat and ornately carved pillars and broad arch detailing.

The stonework is so precise and so neat that you can't possibly imagine that it was done by hand centuries ago.

The walls around the tabernacle are covered in frescoes from the 16th century Sienese school of art.

Keep an eye out for the beautiful 'Madonna in trono con Bambino tra S.Barbara e S.Lucia' (1508) and vivid and a little frightening  'Il Crocifisso tra S.Lorenzo e S.Antonio'  (1527).

Photo: Gabriele Tudico via Flickr

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