CUNEO, Cathedral of St. Mary of the Woods
Tel: +39 0171 693630
Freely open from 7.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 19.00
The old city records of Cuneo tell us that the small church of Saint Mary existed before the foundation of the city, and was located in a very thick wood. It’s the Benedictine Priory of the Abbey of Borgo San Dalmazzo, which became a place of spiritual care in the 13th Century. Saint Mary of the Woods was a lively parish in the heart of the city, as can be seen by the presence of 14 altars, which were noted in the Pastoral visit in 1583. The patrons of these altars were noble families, and workers guilds such, as wine growers, weavers, shoemakers and millers. The transformation of Cuneo into a fortress, threatened the church, which suffered frequent sieges and bombardments. During this time however, the church managed to remain active. Between 1643 and 1645, the parish priest Monsignor Diego Della Chiesa, founded a collegiate church of cannons. On Christmas night in 1656, the vault of the church collapsed. The rebuilding was an ambitious project by Giovenale Boetto. The first stone was laid on March 18th, 1657, and in 1662 the first mass had already been celebrated, and the church was in use. On October 25th 1665, the church was consecrated. The church has survived 18th Century sieges and a forced closing during the French Revolution. With the elimination of its fortification in 1801, the church found itself in the middle of urban development. When a Bishop came to live in Cuneo, the church became a Cathedral. Restoration and embellishment work started, and the dome was planned and built by Stefano Rovere. Between 1863 and 1866, with the completion of the neoclassical façade by Antonio Bono, the cathedral bore the same design style as the main city square, which today is Galimberti Square. The last important work done on the church was the building of a crypt for the tombs of the Bishops in 1968.
In 1832 the façade was enclosed between new buildings. Antonio Bono solved the problem of fashioning it to resemble the surrounding buildings between 1863 and 1866. He used four large fluted columns to support the tympanum and inscribed a dedication on it.
The Baptistery was completed in 1875. The baptismal font is attributed to the Zabreri stonecutters workshop from the Maira Valley. The side of the font bears the date 1490, and the first few words of the Apostles Creed.
There are 9 chapels on both sides of the main nave. On the left-hand side is the chapel of the Intercession and the chapel of Saint Lucy, which both contain relics of the Saints and the Treasure of the Diocese. The chapel of Saint Joseph (patron saint of good death and of carpenters), was renewed around 1646, and contains a beautiful painting representing the Transit of Saint Joseph, attributed to Bartolomeo Caravoglia. On the right-hand side, inside the chapel of the Rosary, there’s a large altar with twisted columns made of red marble. According to belief, it’s thought to come from the church of Saint Augustine in Mondovi, following the Napoleonic Suppression. The two large paintings on the walls by Luigi Morgari, depict devotion to the Holy Sacrament. Proceeding towards the entrance, the chapel that is currently dedicated to Saint Anne, is full of rich stucco decoration and paintings representing the story of the life of Saint Agathe. In 1670, the painter Lelio Scaffa was commissioned to do the work by the weaver’s guild, in order to pay homage to their patron saint.
Presbitery and Choir
The early 18th century wooden crucifix and the choir stalls are particularly beautiful, but what really strikes the observer is the wonderful altarpiece. Painted in 1685, by one of the most important artists of the Italian Baroque period, Andrea Pozzo, the piece depicts the Madonna and child, Saint Michael and Saint Joseph.
Giuseppe Toselli, a painter from Peveragno, painted the dome in 1834, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin in the presence of the patron saints of Cuneo: Saint Michael, Saint Joseph the Baptist and the blessed Angelo Carletti.
A rich set of sculptures decorates the church. Amongst these is an 18th century crucifix attributed to Plura, Saint Michael slaying the dragon (of particular importance to the Cuneese people), the Madonna and child by Antonio Roasio, and a beautiful pulpit dated 1668.
Direction: Gianluca de Angelis
Post-Production: TEKLA TV
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925
Don Roberto Gallo