The Collegiate Church of St Mary Magdalene was founded in 1274 on the ruins of a medieval fortress on the initiative of Atrani. Over time the church has undergone considerable restoration. In 1570, near collapse, funds were raised by special taxes on wheat and export of manufactured goods to restore the church.
The building underwent a second operation almost a century later, in 1669. On that occasion it also repaired the sacristy which was equipped with an external counter. In 1753, as the population grew the church was enlarged and expanded by donations from private citizens in addition to the contribution of municipal regiment. It was during this work that the fortress was finally demolished in order to free up additional space enlargement. In recent times, it was renovated by the architect Lorenzo Casalbore of Salerno.
The church is decorated with two transepts. One ceiling is covered externally with tiles; the other has a flat roof. There are numerous statues and paintings placed in various side chapels: The Madonna shepherdess (famous sculpture of 1789) and The Incredulity of St. Thomas (work of the 16th century Salerno Andrea Sabatini). The facade of the church is considered the only example of Rococo on the Amalfi Coast. The terrace of the sacristy overlooks the Gulf of Salerno as the Belvedere of Villa Cimbrone. The bell tower, with its brown tuff, is reminiscent of the Madonna del Carmine in Naples.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).