CUNEO, Saint Mary of the Pieve Church
The church, now parish of Saint Mary of the Pieve, was built for the nearby Jesuit college, which today serves as the seat of the town council. The first stone was laid on the 10th of November 1655 and the church was consecrated on the 25th of November 1673, although mass had been celebrated in it since 10 years before. The entrepreneur who ordered the building of the church was Martino Rusca, who gave to his brother the delicate task to decorate the church with stucco and to sculpt the statues. As in the Jesuits tradition, the church was particularly devoted to preaching and confession, and therefore a one-hall plan was used (this type of plan was favoured by the Jesuits). The small choirs upstairs – accessible through elevate passages still visible – were sometimes used by the nearby college. After the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, the church became property of the Savoy state, which arranged an exchange of property with the parish administration of Saint Mary of the Pieve, until then located on the opposite side of the city, and subsequently destroyed to make place for the defensive bulwark. After the exchange, the former Jesuit church was equipped with a baptismal font, taken from the old church of Pieve. The last important work done on the church was the decoration of the vault in the 19th century. Some iconographical elements on the altars were also changed, in order to make them more appropriate to the new functions assumed by the parish.
The decoration is inspired to the psalm 'Praise be to the Name of the Lord from East to West'. The 17th century statues recall the missionary theme: they represent respectively a Chinese and a native American man, nobility, and maternal love.
The Batpistery was taken from the old church in Pieve. Placed behind an iron rail fence, it consists of an oval marble cup with a spiral support and a shrine bearing the scene of the original sin. It dates back to the 17th century.
The choice of the titles and of the iconography of the altars derives from the model wanted by the Jesuits, which is focused on the Name of Jesus (to which the high altar used to be dedicated to). The trigraph IHS can be found many times in the decoration of the church. The Name of Jesus was given by the angel to Joseph and to the Immaculate Virgin (the two altars on the left-hand side); the same name was announced by the Jesuit missionaries, starting with the famous Francesco Saverio, and it was source of wisdom for the students of the nearby college, whose patron was Francesco Borgia (the two altars on the right-hand side). Of particular interest is the rich set of statues in the chapels and the stucco decorations; absolutely not to miss is the amazing altar painting representing Saint Joseph, painted in 1672 by Andrea Pozzo, one of the most important artists of the Italian Baroque. Also interesting is the painting representing Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Ignatius and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga worshipping the Madonna and Child with a nice view of the fortified city of Cuneo at the end of the 17th century in the background.
Francesco Gallo designed in 1725 the current background characterized by a curvilinear plant; the renewal of the church involved also the high altar, made by Matteo Buzzi and Francesco Aprile in 1727 using polychromatic inlaid marbles. The choir is very small, since the Jesuits did not particularly use it. The big altar-piece, which dates back to 1640, has been attributed to Bartolomeo Caravoglia, a painter who well knew Caravaggio's style: he painted the Circumcision of Baby Jesus which reminds us once more that the church was originally dedicated to the Name of Jesus.
It is located in the most suitable position in relation to the acoustic (about half of the height of the wall). It’s a fundamental tool for preaching, which was highly considered by the Jesuits along with the sacrament of penance (confession). This explains the presence of six confessionals under the pulpit and on both sides of the nave.
It was painted by Giuseppe Toselli from Peveragno in 1838 . Episodes from the Life of the Virgin are depicted: the theme, therefore, does not refer to the Jesuit origin of the church, but at the following dedication to the 'Name of Mary'.
It's is a large well-lit hall, probably restored at the time of the works done by Francesco Gallo on the church in 1725. The elegant baroque walnut wardrobes bear as an inscription the trigraph IHS, which refers to the Name of Jesus.
It is supported by four elegant stucco telamons, and it is characterised by a beautifully carved wooden parapet from the 18th century. Inside the large wooden box, which dates back to the 19th century, there is an organ built by the Vittino brothers in 1874.
In the Middle Ages, a pieve was a rural church with a baptistery. The nearby churches without baptisteries depended on the pieve.
Direction: Gianluca de Angelis
Post-Production: TEKLA TV
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo Alpi del Mare
Don Lorenzo Rosso