Saint George’s church
The whole body of paintings inside Saint George’s church represents one of the most important pictorial and medieval cycles of the high Canavese.
The most ancient document which reached us dates back to 1150 but the church at that time was already built and worked as chapel of the near castle of the Valperga’s lords besides being parish church of the village below: the high bell tower, with its marmorean and Romanesque double lancet windows dates back to that period.
So church of nobles, nobles who here made themselves
buried, decorating and beautifying the church, to make it more and more a
precious testimony of their power. They made painters of great experience and
artistic ability work in it; one of them left his name painted: Giovanni
di Pietro de Scotis di Piacenza, active in Canavese towards the middle of 1400.
The frescos don’t belong certainly to the same painter and the same time, because it is recognizable the hand of many artists belonging to different pictorial schools and epochs.
Originally the church was all decorated outside by pictures, besides by relieves done in terracotta tiles; it only remains, to testify the decorative richness, the scene of the Adoration of the Magi, saved from decay because englobed in the seventeenth-century sacristy. At that period the church turned out to be inadequate and two following extension works were needed, lengthening the naves; the facade too was rebuilt, probably at the beginning of the 1700.
During an epidemic of plague, maybe that of 1630, the church was turned into a lazaret; due to hygienic reasons the frescos on the walls were re-covered with lime, episode which permitted luckily their salvation from decay.
Meanwhile the controversies with the population sprang: people didn’t like so much a parish church so far from the concentric and which pertained wholly to the nobles; polemics which were solved only in the Napoleonic era, in 1803, with the definitive concession of the transfer of the parish in the church of the confraternity of the trinity, in the middle of the village.
So a progressive decline of Saint George’s church began, even due to the scarce maintenance of the masters of the near castle, who were declared in 1936 dethroned from the right of patronage, opening the possibility of public interventions. The restoration’s works, made on the initiative of the valperghese sen. Giorgio Anselmi, were carried out between 1937 and 1939 and brought to the consolidation of the building and the recovery of the frescos, today unfortunately in serious danger again. Therefore it’s urgent to intervene as soon as possible before this important work of art disappears definitively.
Giovanni Bertotti (1996)
Note. The association has taken the alarm launched by Dott. Bertotti, giving rise to a series of restoration activities on Saint George’s church.
Complesso della chiesa di S. Giorgio
(foto di Remo VALLERO – Valperga)
(with reference to the plan below)
The traces of the primitive church of X-XI century are bounded to the rough holy water stoup (a) made of Pont stone and some negligible parts of the masonry near the apse.
The bell tower (b) with elegant Romanesque mullioned windows taken on by white marble columns, belongs to that period.
The little sacristy (c), the apse (d) and the two adjacent naves till the 4th chapel on the right and the 4th on the left included belong to the fourteenth-century church. In the fifteenth-century the church was enlarged adding the third chapel on the right and the third on the left; near the previous fourteenth-century works the interior and exterior walls alike are totally covered with the frescos and so it was said to be probably the unique example in Piedmont.
NAVE ON THE RIGHT
2a chapel – Dedicated to the BV of the Rosary and of patronage Valperga di Civrone. Altar dated from 600. Painting of unknown author : God on the Cross, at feet S. Anna e S.Francesco and knet the donor Pompeo of Valperga, who lived at the end of 1500.
Coat of arms of the earls of Valperga and Benso Cavour. Two cupids hold an oval in which is painted the coronation of M.V.
3a chapel – The altar was
dedicated to S.Bartolomeo. Fresco of Madonna on the throne between
S.Bartolomeo and S.Bernardo of Mentone, on his knees Giorgio of Valperga, died
in 1471, the wife Margherita of Mentone and four daughters. On the capitals of
the columns there are the coats of arms of Canavese and Mentone, of Valperga of
Masino and one not identified.
The vault divided into four ribs, has got painted the scenes of the Nativity, the flight into Egypt, the Adoration of the Magi and circumcision.
4a chapel – Dedicated to S.Antonio from Padova and under the patronage of sen. Gerolamo Valperga. In the ribs the first four doctors of the church, S.Ambrogio, S.Agostino, S.Gerolamo and S.Gregorio Magno. In the under-arch images of prophets.
5a chapel – Dedicated to S. Pantaleone and under the patronage of Valperga’s of Masino in 1756. In the wall over the altar, around the rose window in terracotta, is represented the Annunciation, on the opposite altar the fresco of Christ who comes out from the sepulchre. On the pillar towards the central nave is represented Santa Maria Maddalena. It’s the first figure discovered during the restorations of 1937-39. On the pillar ahead a saint wearing medieval clothes who holds in the right hand a palm. In the underarch six figures, probably of prophets.
In the ribs of the vault the four evangelists.
Pretty the decoration on the low strip, with naturalistic designs of leverets and squirrels.
Scenes of the Passion. Situated in “cornu Evangeli”, it is the other important pictorial cycle of the church. The great fresco, m. 4,50 by m. 6,30, represents in a severe realism some scenes of the Passion of Christ, with characters represented “from life”, which reveal an artist of great technical capacity and artistic sensitivity. On a scroll ornament over the door of the sacristy we can read the name of the artist and the date of the fresco: Giovanni di Pietro de Scot(is) di P(i)a(cenza) 1462, painter well-known in Canavese even thanks to other his works.
Before the XVII century the church ended on the right side to the 5th chapel and the apse. At the end of the XVII century was built the sacristy whereas previously there was the children’s cemetery.
A fresco m. 4 by m. 4.90 which represents the Adoration of the Magi; is interrupted by the big “terracotta” rose window.
CENTRAL NAVE – The biggest fresco m.8,90 x 4,60 which represents the Miracles and the work of San Michele is placed on the right side overhanging the arches of the 4th and 5th chapel on the right; stylistic and iconographic elements date back it to the primitive fourteenth-century church. Starting from our left we see, in the first panel over the fifth chapel on the right, the scene of the apparition of San Michele on The Monte Gargano to the bishop of Siponto, and in the one near the same bishop who blesses an invulnerable bull and receives from the Arcangel the mission to establish the divine cult on the mountain. In the two lower panels on the left the angels bring to the sky the souls of the elected members, while on the right Saint Michele assists an infirm and guides towards the correct direction a doubtful person.
On the third panel upwards San Michele guides the victorious army; immediately nearby he fights against the demons, stabbing Lucifer and taking him into the hell, represented like a monster with the jaws opened wide. Down it’s already possible to identify a little church over a mountain on the sea shore( maybe Mont St. Michel in Bretagne), theatre of another miraculous intervention of the Arcangel; in the near panel, over the arcade of the chapel, is represented the resurrection of the dead people. In the last two frescos on the right we can see upwards San Michele armoured who stabs a sinner, while down Christ almighty is represents as a supreme judge who is present at the separation of the good from the damned, tormented in many ways by the demons and chased away in the jaws of the infernal monster.
In the second pylon on the left the effigy San Nicola da Tolentino.
In the third pylon on the left a bishop and Santa Apollonia.
Over the door of the bell tower, residue of a fresco of Adam and Eve; it’s the most ancient fresco of the whole ensemble from a stylistic point of view.
NAVE ON THE LEFT
1a chapel – it contains the font. The chapel was placed under the invocation of San Michele. Under the patronage of Ughetti Families in 1729.
2a chapel – Dedicated to the Madonna del Carmine and under the concern of the company of the Carmine . At the time of the restoration was decided to move to this place the altar of S.Maria della Liberazione. Image of the Madonna with four figures of praying saints at feet: S.Giuseppe, S.Antonio da Padova, S.Giorgio, S.Pietro. Upwards picture of S.Francesco di Sales.
3a chapel – Under the invocation of S. Anna and then of S. Caterina. Under the patronage of the earls of Valperga di Civrone. On the right of the window effigies of S.Francesco d'Assisi and Santa Chiara. On the pylons are painted Santo Vescovo and Santo Frate, a blessed with a slender neck, S.Antonio da Padova, S. Francesco d'Assisi, Santa Margherita and Beato Giorgio. On the under-arch the Sibille; on the ribs a Madonna with the Infant Jesus and the symbolism of the Redeemer.
4a chapel – Under the invocation of S.Giovanni, under the patronage of Valperga di
There were no traces of the tomb monument summoned in the testament of the earl Giovanni Valperga on 1375, except a tombstone with the coat of arms of which remains only the shield surmounted by the crown. A fragment of tombstone with some inscription "nox, dies, ecc "and with the coat of arms of Valperga Masino was found and walled up on the northern side:. In the opposite altar made of canvas the one of Masino’s, upwards the one of Valperga’s.
EXTERIOR WALL LOOKING SOUTH
Three windows in terracotta decorated with tokens, two with the same decorations and the third changed towards west, belonging to the following fifteenth-century building. Upwards rich frieze in terracotta. On the roof three pinnacles in terracotta with a cross. On the wall frescos of saints, unfortunately quite damaged, that once covered completely the exterior walls. Some elements of the exterior wall looking south have been used at the ending of 19th century by architect D’Andrade as models for the Borgo Medioevale di Torino. Particularly, on the front side of the Borgo’s Church it is possibile to admire the copies of an ogive window, terracotta friezes and the fresco of San Bernardo, one of the frescos that , by now irremediably lost in the original, impressed, with their impending appearance, the pilgrim approaching the saint George’s church. The wall finishes with the seventeenth- century building called “La Rotonda” due to its circular shape, ancient round burial site of the Valperga Lords.
In the background the turreted and majestic massive structure of the castle, now more refined in shapes and colours, surpasses the church, as to affirm the ancient feudal control.
LA CHIESA DI SAN GIORGIO IN VALPERGA di Giorgio Ermanno Anselmi –1943-SATET- Torino
LE PRIME CHIESE CRISTIANE DEL CANAVESE di C. Boggio, Torino 1887 e Ivrea 1978
COMUNITA’ MONTANA ALTO CANAVESE-1989-edito da CMAC, a cura di CORSAC (Cuorgnè)