Cathedral of San Giovenale
Diocesi di Fossano ( sec. XVIII )
Via Roma, 12045 Fossano Provincia di Cuneo, Italia
Fossano Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Juvenal and was built in the last decades of the 18th century, to a design by architect Mario Ludovico Quarini, over the former collegiate church of Santa Maria e San Giovenale, which dated back to the 13th century.
Consecrated on 25 September 1791, it features an impressive Neoclassical facade set with Corinthian columns. The interior of the cathedral, a Latin cross plan with a dome and side chapels, follows Quarini’s design while the decoration is 19th century.
There are ten chapels inside, and four of these (the two in the transept and the two halfway along the sides of the aisles) were designed to appear more important than the others. The layout Quarini proposed for Fossano shares a number of elements with Alfieri’s second design for Turin cathedral. Quarini also was inspired by Bernardo Vittone’s projects for Latin cross churches.
The current building houses works by artists like Claret and Boetto, and 19th-century frescoes by Luigi Hartman, David Ortori, Emilio Morgari and Domenico Mossello. There is also an important reliquary of Saint Juvenal, patron of the city. The bell tower, however, dates back to the 15th century and was modified in the 1600s to a design by Boetto, with the addition of an elegant octagonal spire.
During the last renovation, several building phases of the main place of worship came to light, which so far had only existed in written or iconographic testimonies. Before the present church, there was a collegiate, built in the 15th century and enlarged in the early 1600s, of which only Boetto’s bell tower has survived externally, while many of the original furnishings are kept in the sacristies. Excavations have revealed several architectural elements of the 15th-century collegiate church, including the walls separating the aisles, a square apse, the perimeter of the old sacristy, and the adjoining cemetery. The finds have also confirmed the existence of a primitive Late Romanesque collegiate church, dating from the time of the arrival of Saint Juvenal’s relics (1279). This much smaller church already had a nave and two aisles, with the same orientation as those of today, and immediately revealed a semi-circular apse that presumably ended the nave.
Saint Juvenal, of African origin (c.320), was the first bishop of Narni (369) and was closely linked to the town of Fossano from the time of its foundation. According to tradition, the relics of this bishop saint were stolen from Narni in about 1100, by a canon of Toulouse who was stunned by the miracles that took place by the tomb. During his return trip, the canon was forced to stop at the small Madonna dei Campi church, in the Fraschea area, not far from the place where Fossano was subsequently built. Here he died and was buried, together with the casket of relics, in the church itself. A miracle (c.1220) revealed the presence of the remains and the canons of Romanisio (now Gerbo) solemnly took them to their collegiate church. When Borgo Romanisio was destroyed (1279), the inhabitants moved to Fossano and took the holy relics with them, placing them in the church of Santa Maria di Piazza, later demolished (1779) to make way for the current majestic cathedral.
The lively cult that flourished around Saint Juvenal was inspired by deep faith. When calamities occurred, the people of Fossano were aware of a powerful intercession, as testified by the precious reliquaries and votive lamp, the latter given by the municipal council in 1835 in thanks for surviving the terrible plague. The local community celebrates its patron saint on the first Sunday in May. In centuries past, multitudes of believers came to honour Saint Juvenal in Fossano, arriving from Piedmont, Liguria and Lombardy.
Another hallowed figure connected to the construction of Fossano Cathedral is Oddino Barotti, who was born in the town and was appointed provost of the collegiate church of Santa Maria e San Giovenale. He initiated a refurbishment of the collegiate church and the massive adjoining bell tower, and although this was renovated in the 1600s, it can still be seen next to Quarini’s beautiful Neoclassical building, designed in the late 1700s.
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- Cattedrale di Fossano
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- Via Roma, 12045 Fossano Provincia di Cuneo, Italia
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