Thursday, July 28, 2022

Romanesque in Liguria

This year, it was just too hot to spend all day on the beach, during our holiday in Chiavari, so I explored a couple of interesting nearby Romanesque buildings. One I had already seen, but the other two were new to me.

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, near Lavagna, is a late Romanesque work, built by Pope Innocent IV, born Sinibaldo Fieschi, of the noble Fieschi family, who dominated the area. Work started in 1244 and took until the end of the Thirteenth century to finish. It is one of the best preserved Romanesque buildings in Liguria, even surviving a raid by North African Saracens in 1767. 

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE


Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

The façade presents itself with alternating bands of white marble and slate, in the typical style of Ligurian buildings, both public and religious. Columns and arches enrich the façade; in the centre there is a large rose window surmounted by marble arches in the Gothic-Romanesque style. The bell tower is an imposing squat quadrangular tower with four-small windows on two levels. The interior is quite plain and simple, with little decoration. 

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, Lavagna, GE

The monastery of Sant Andrea of Borzone is, is hidden away, in a solitary valley, near the town of Borzonasca. On the last narrow stretch of road leading to the monastery, you hope not to meet a car coming the other way.

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE


Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE
Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

The date of its foundation is still uncertain. According to some testimonies, the church and the monastery were built at the behest of the Lombard king Liutprand between 712 and 714, with an adjoining royal residence, replacing a fortress erected by the Byzantines in the sixth century. The characteristic façade in with a brickwork skeleton infilled with stone probably dates from the Ninth Century. 

Over the centuries the building has been much altered, especially the interior. The tower dates from 1243, but is founded on the Byzantine fortress tower. The interior stucco was added in the ninetieth century, robbing the inside of any Romanesque atmosphere.

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

Abbazia di Sant'Andrea di Borzone, GE

After the confusion of the coastal towns and beaches, there is a wonderful silence here.  

Chiesa Millenaria di Ruta above Camogli, is a modest little church, that as its name suggests, dates back to the early Twelfth century, but the building we see today is mostly datable to the Thirteenth century. Like many religious buildings it sits in a wonderful location with nice views of the coast. It was one a staging point on one of the Medieval roads which crossed the Apennines.

Chiesa Millenaria di Ruta, GE. The church can be seen just below the high distant mountain peak on the left.

Chiesa Millenaria di Ruta

Chiesa Millenaria di Ruta



Monday, June 20, 2022

Romanesque in the Parma Hills

In the mid Apennines above Parma, there are three charming Romanic Pieve churches. In the last few weeks I have visited three of them.

First of is the Pieve di Sasso. I have wanted to see the inside of this church for a long time, but I have always found it closed. Last Sunday I was lucky and found it open. 

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

 Mentioned for the first time in a document written in1004, the Pieve di Sasso stands isolated on a hill   between the valleys of the Parma and Enza rivers. The Pieve was, between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, a place of rest and shelter for traveller's and pilgrims on Linari road, a historic connection between Parma and Tuscany via the Lagastrello pass. Little remains of the original church. The church which we see today, was rebuilt at the end of the eleventh century, with a three-nave layout ending in three apses oriented to the east.

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR



The church with its imposing rough stone columns is very simple inside with no decoration. But in one corner we can see a lovely twelfth century octagonal baptismal font, on whose faces are carved a winged human figure (St. Matthew), a winged lion (St. Mark), a cleric and a griffin with a dove.

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR

As with many religious buildings, it is built in a wonderful location with superb views of the mid Apennines.

Pieve di Sasso, Neviano degli Arduini, PR
Sometimes a photo expedition seems to be a disaster, but then I have some good luck and things go better than I imagined. One Sunday, a few weeks ago was a good example. I travelled into the foothills above Parma to explore the area around Tizzano. There is an old ruined castle, a Romanesque Piave and some lovely landscapes. The weather turned misty and grey ruling out any worthwhile landscape photography, the castle, overgrown with weeds was less than impressive, so I went on to the Pieve to take a look outside, believing it to be closed. Surprisingly it was open and so I unexpectedly added another scalp to my Romanesque project.

Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR

Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR

Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR

Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR

This simple little church is very plain inside, the only carving on the capitals, is a mysterious snake, the strongest Medieval symbol for evil. The building dates from the eleventh century, but has had many modifications and additions over the years. Its peculiarity is the bell tower, built centrally over the entrance. This French style is very rare in Italy.

Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR


Pieve di Tizzano, Tizzano Val Parma, PR

The Pieve is in a very isolated position, someway from the village. Some fresco fragments were discovered here during a restoration. They were removed for some reason. I was able to see them in the main Parish church. The noble with his horse is rather nice.

 Tizzano Val Parma, PR

 Tizzano Val Parma, PR

Tizzano Val Parma, PR

Tizzano Val Parma, PR


Fornovo is today, an anonymous exit on the Parma - La Spezia motorway, but it was once an important staging post on the Via Francigena, the pilgrimage route that ran from Canterbury down to Rome and then onwards to Bari, if you wanted to do a bit of Crusading in the Holy Land.

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Mentioned for the first time in 854, Santa Maria Assunta is one of the oldest churches in the diocese of Parma. In the middle of the eleventh century the church with three naves and three apses was built and whose structure is at the base of the current building. 

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Prominent of the façade of the Pieve is a large framed carving, that warns the pilgrim about the consequences of bad behaviour. On the left, lust and lechery will end with some devils feeding you to a dragon. Usury in the center will get you weighed down with money bags and crushed under a safe, while a devil pulls your teeth out. I do not know what those on the right have done to get boiled alive.  Joking aside, the messages emitted from these these carvings were taken very seriously by the Medieval population.

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

The most prominent feature inside the Pieve is a medieval carving showing the story of Santa Margherita a martire from what is now Turkey. The picture story starts off top right, you go down bottom right and then upwards to the left and then down again. The sequence is very different from our European left to right reading.

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

Pieve di Fornovo, Fornovo, PR

At the end of this set is the baptistry in Serravalle a few kilometres away

Battistero di Serravalle

Battistero di Serravalle