CUNEO, Santa Croce Church
The Santa Croce Confraternity has been in Cuneo since the 14th century. The brothers assembled for celebrations and to assist the sick and the needy. They wore a white tunic with a hood so as to hide their faces and not appear ostentatious. From the 16th century they took up residence in the San Francesco district, where there stood the important Fransiscan monastery. Inside this church the brothers owned a chapel which they had frescoed by Pietro Pocapaglia da Saluzzo in 1482, still visible to this day. Also the Santa Croce Confraternity had its own oratory and of course the hospital, which grew over time. It could accommodate up to about fifty people and its healthcare activities were based then more on assistance and shelter than real treatment. In December 2017 after a long period of closure the Santa Croce church was reopened to the public, restored and with increased safety measures.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the church was completely renovated with the work being entrusted to Antonio Bertòla. The building site was set up in 1709 and was managed by the architect Francesco Gallo who brought about certain modifications with respect to the master's original ideas, especially to the façade. By 1715 work on the church was finished and celebrations could take place. The main body of the building is positioned transversally with respect to the other buildings and is concave in form, which creates a little parvis, producing quite an effect on those coming from the narrow streets of the historical centre. The church nestles inside the greater Santa Croce hospital complex. Built in different periods between 1732 and 1876 the hospital served the city until the 1960s when hospital services were transferred to their present location near the train station. Today the building is set to house the municipal library and already accommodates the children's and young person's section.
The plan of the church is composed of two ellipses, linked by the presbytery area, one for the choir, the other for assembly, further embellished by side chapels. The main artists of the period worked on the internal decoration, which has been conserved extraordinarily well. The quadrature painter Pietro Antonio Pozzi was responsible for the false architectural details painted in the side chapels. Domenico Beltramelli from Lugano created the elegant stuccoes with floral elements, cherubs and angels. The painter Francesco Gaggini frescoed the figures of the Virtues, the Prophets, the doctors of the Church and the Evangelists between the cornices. Along the perimeter of the main body are found the fourteen large-scale paintings (which come from the old church) painted in 1626 by Giulio and Giovanni Battista Bruno for the noble families affiliated to brotherhood, which depict the miracles of the cross. Among the church decorations of particular worth is the processional group with the cross-bearing Christ attributed to Giuseppe Maria and Stefano Maria Clemente dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.
Choir and presbytery
The presbytery is the link between the main hall and the choir. It is surrounded by a winding balustrade closed off by a small wrought iron gate which came from the 16th century church. At the centre is the imposing altar made in many-coloured marble, decorated with a rich silver-plated tapestry. Particularly noteworthy is the little throne enhanced with angels and arma christi. The great choir was the real pivot of the religious life of the confraternity and could accommodate up to 70 or 80 brothers who would meet here for prayers and meetings. In the middle of the benches we find the so-called Saint Bernardino of Siena throne, made in the fifteenth century and partly reworked, upon which it is said that the saint sat during his stay in the city in 1418. The altarpiece of the great altar is particularly spectacular, with its monumental angels presenting the canvas with “The Invention of the Cross” painted by the Genoese Giuseppe Galeotti in the 1760s.
The side chapels
The two large chapels that open in the main body of the church are dedicated respectively to Intercession (on the right) and to Saint Bernardino (on the left). The right chapel is dominated by the bright canvas painted by Alessandro Trono from Cuneo in 1732 which depicts Saint Michael addressing the souls in purgatory with the Trinity and Our Lady. Around this there are the false architectural details, the skulls and the statues of Prayer and Charity created by Pietro Antonio Pozzo in 1717. The chapel opposite depicts an analogous theme: the 17th century canvas, which came from the previous church, is by Guglielmo Caccia, known as Moncalvo, next to which are the figures of Strength and Martyrdom. There is a beautiful canvas in the chapel attributed to the Bruno brothers which represents the blessed Angelo Carletti, protector of the city of Cuneo.
The long life of the confraternity has led to numerous very valuable works of art converging in its collections, some from other churches in the area. Some important paintings are kept in the old council room and in the deposits: the clearly Caravaggio-influenced Apostolate, the elegant Sybils, the powerful Our Lady with child and Saint Francis Borgia by Andrea Pozzo, or the crowded Christ in limbo by Giovanni Angelo Dolce. Also noteworthy is the inheritance of sculptures including the 15th century crucifixes and the exquisite cabinets with the stories of Saint Bruno of Cologne, which the French Army.
Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translations: Europa 92
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925
Studio Violino Architetture
Azienda Ospedaliera Santa Croce e Carle