The church of Saints Sebastian and Rocco is located at the entrance of the town of Acuto, in Ciociaria (Frosinone), and contains artistic treasures and mysteries.
It dates back to the twelfth century and was initially named after San Sebastiano, protector against diseases and epidemics. San Rocco was later added as a patron saint to protect against the plague. Also because of being on the Via Francigena, it became a place for travelers to rest.
Inside there are cycles of frescoes from the 1500s and 1600s. It is not possible to state precisely who managed the church at this time, but when you enter you can admire four red-coloured crosses inscribed in a circumference, similar to those visible in other sacred buildings that belonged to the monastic-chivalric order of the Knights Templar.
Inside the church there is an elephant-head stoup which reminds of Africa and the East. The elephant symbolizes the baptism in which the female of the elephant gives birth to the baby in a swamp. The aquasanta represents the water of the pond where the baby is born and alludes to the fact that the faithful person, becoming wet, is reborn. A similar holy water font is quite rare in Ciociaria and the other is located in Pico.
The frescoes that decorate the interior walls of the church date back to different eras and patron saints, but are full of intriguing symbologies. Among the most ancient, on the right side is painted a green dragon attacking a lion, which symbolically depicts the episode of the tragic “Sack of Rome” by the Imperial armies formed by the Lutheran Lanzichenecchi. This is the Protestant heresy that grabs the lion symbol of Christ.
The back wall is characterized by two angels holding a mysterious blue coat of arms with a tower. In the apse there is a fresco of a Benedictine Father who with his left hand holds a transparent Globe (divided into 4 parts to honour the new geographical discoveries of the time).
In the lower part of the apse is the Madonna enthroned with the Child under a shell of Venus, which refers to the Piera della Francesca’s Brera altarpiece. On the sides of the Madonna are the two saints of the church. On the left is San Sebastiano, whose right foot shows six digits, a case of hexadactyly that in other cultures indicates a sign of enlightenment.
On the right of the enthroned Madonna, the other saint of the church, San Rocco, was painted showing the sign of the plague on the right leg (as opposed to the frescoes of San Rocco in all of Europe where the leg with the wound is the left).
From the frescoes of the back wall you can still admire other curious details.
Above, to the left of the apse, the Archangel Gabriel with a lily in his hand turns to the Virgin. Under the Archangel Gabriel the Archangel Michael was frescoed with a Roman armour that strikes the demon, crushed under his feet, with a spear while holding a scale with his left hand.
The Archangel is intent in “Psychostasis”, i.e. the “weighing of souls”. This is a theme that is not even referenced in the New Testament Scriptures, but in the religious tradition of Ancient Egypt. In Italy it is quite rare to find such a fresco. That of Acuto is a real discovery.
Among the supporting columns of the monumental structure painted around the right-hand side altar, the biblical King David with crown and harp is identified on the left, while on the right is Moses with the serpent-shaped stick.
Also, in this case it is a rather rare representation, obviously referring to the episode of the Old Testament in which the Jews were punished by Yahweh through the bites of poisonous snakes, symbol of positive knowledge being able to heal.
On the left wall inside the small apse is depicted the Almighty with his face framed by a thick gray beard, inserted in a thin triangle of gold, wearing a blue robe and a red cloak, while holding with his left hand the Planet of Earth. Unlike the Master in the main apse, the globe is divided into 3 parts according to the medieval trinitarian conception of the world, and blesses with the right hand.
But the most interesting and true element of attraction in Acuto for esoteric research is the magnificent Palindromo. It is a rectangle of 11 x 9 squares, in each of which a letter is inserted that serves to form the sentence, readable in all the verses starting from the centre, “DEO GRATIAS”, that is “Thank God”.
The centre of the rectangle and of the whole composition is the red letter “D”. Acuto’s sentence is rather rare. It does not appear that other specimens exist in a church. The church of San Sebastiano and Rocco di Acuto is truly unique. The central D of “Deus” acts as a pivot around which everything rotates.
What emerges is a labyrinth, in which, however, abandoning oneself with trust to the road traced out by the “DEO GRATIAS” we reach God in any case.