CUNEO, Sanctuary of Madonna degli Angeli
The Santuario della Madonna degli Angeli (Sanctuary of Our lady of Angels), has been a landmark for the city since its origin. It can be reached by going almost three kilometres along the same named avenue and is a Sunday walk destination for the people of Cuneo. The creation of the avenue goes back to the mid-eighteenth century and is an early example of a “French boulevard”, then virtually unknown in north Italy, which provided a large central road for traffic (more than 21 metres wide) flanked by a double tree-lined avenue for strolling. The church overlooks a large garden, in which stands the large cross with the instruments of the Passion of Christ; the balcony running along the eastern side offers a picturesque view of the River Gesso and the Bisalta mountain. Externally, the building represents Franciscan simplicity: it has a simple gabled façade, preceded by a three-arched portico. On the entrance portal, there is a repetition of the coat of arms of the Caissotti family who encouraged the eighteenth-century renovation of the sanctuary; there are other versions of the same coat of arms inside the building. On the outskirts of the city, then formed by meadows and chestnut groves, there was a shrine dedicated to Our Lady, already the subject of fervent devotion. Probably around the thirties of the fifteenth century, a person of Spanish origin named Alfonso Galìndres settled near this place and built a small oratory that housed himself and whoever wished to lead a life of prayer. By mid-century the place became one of the main religious poles of the city; several of the most important preachers of the time passed by here and shortly the monastery became the first cenobium of Friars Minor in Piedmont.
The renovation of the church began between 1699 and 1700 starting from the presbytery and the chapels adjacent to it; the work was completed in 1718, as is attested on the plaque on the counter façade. The Counts Caissotti di Chiusano, whose coat of arms features several times inside the Sanctuary, commissioned this phase. The project of the new church was entrusted to Michelangelo Garòve, an architect and town planner of the House of Savoy; he was responsible for the elegant quatrefoil windows that open in the walls: they are an architectural feature of his, a sort of “signature”. The chapels and majestic polychrome marble altars that enrich the inside of the church, partly decorated with works from the previous church. The decoration of the dome was entrusted to the painter Tommaso Amedeo Caissotti, who painted the Madonna Assunta (Our Lady of the Assumption) among groups of angels, apostles and Franciscan saints. The building destructively collapsed on 30 December 1996, fortunately without victims, and was reconstructed with sophisticated engineering solutions in just four years and was given back to the city on Christmas Eve in 2000.
There are altars of several aristocratic families of Cuneo inside the church, many of whom have their properties and villas in the area surrounding the sanctuary. The altars are dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, the crucifix, to Saint Francis and to San Diego of Alcalà and are decorated with fine stuccos, marble and works of art. It is worth stopping to admire the seventeenth-century painting by Guglielmo Caccia called Moncalvo depicting San Diego on the altar of the Della Chiesa della Torre family, or the dramatic crucifix, which may have been created by a southern Italian sculptor.
The original design of the current high altar dates to 1726, due no less than to Filippo Juvarra, on the appointment of Count Caissotti di Chiusano, whose family was entitled to the patronage of the church. The building was implemented in 1750 by Bernardo Vittòne, a pupil of Juvarra, with several modifications and was built by master craftsman Giovan Angelo Buzzi who left his signature and the date 1752 in a side niche. The work is made of polychrome marble and is joined to the side walls by two doors with the coat of arms of the Caisotti di Chiusano family: over it is an elegant canopied aedicule with broken tympanum, which contains the statue of the Madonna Assunta. In the Juvarra design, the Madonna Assunta should have been made of marble, but the sculptor Ignazio Perùcca chose wood, which was more economical and practical from the point of view of the weight load and position of the sculpture.
There are two chapels on the sides of the presbytery that are very important for the history of the city, both built in the late seventeenth century. The one on the left holds the remains of the Blessed Angelo Carletti, a Franciscan friar and author of Summa Angelica, who died in Cuneo in 1495. He was always invoked as protector and defender of the city and it is said that he appeared during the sieges on the walls and on the towers, warding off cannon balls with his hands. In the XVII century, the municipality of Cuneo ordered as a votive offering the building of a chapel «in the church of the monastery of the Madonna degli Angeli to honour the aforementioned Angelo for the repositione or repositioning of his body». Its construction began at the end of the century and the elegant stuccos that run along the cornice probably belong to that period. Between 1751 and 1753, just before the beatification of Carletti, the vault was frescoed by Michele Antonio Milocco and in the same period, a wonderful bronze case arrived at the sanctuary for the body of the blessed, donated by Carlo Emanuele III and made by the goldsmiths of Court Francesco Ladatte (read LADATT) and Andrea Boucheron (read BOOSHERON), lost in the Napoleonic era. The very last years of the XIX century saw a total makeover of the altar on a design by Giovanni Sassi, with the consequent dispersion of the previous one.
The chapel on the right – already dedicated to the Immaculate Conception – became the burial ground of the Galimberti family in the XX century: here rest Alice Schanzer (read SHANZER), her husband Tancredi Galimberti, senator of the Kingdom and their children Carlo Enrico and Duccio, partisan commander for the Justice and Freedom formations and national hero, assassinated on 3 December 1944 by fascists. The decoration was carried out by Edoardo Rubìno from Turin: the white marble sculptures depict Alice watched over by the men of the family who look at her tenderly and with melancholy; in front, the flying angels are turned towards the Immaculate on the high altar. The inscriptions on the sarcophagi commemorate the virtues of the Galimberti family.
Ancient Chapel and Cloisters
Adjacent to the western side of the building is the large breadth of the monastery, which is now a retirement home. Restoration work in the nineties brought to light a medieval room in the area next to the church, still decorated with frescoes: it is a fifteenth-century cycle attributed to the Biasàcci brothers of Busca focused on Marian devotion, with the depiction of Christ, of scourges on the right wall and of prophets and Sibyls in the soffits. The two internal cloisters were built around 1730 and are decorated with frescoed lunettes that recount the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi and episodes of the Life and Miracles of the Blessed Angelo. They were commissioned by the most important families of Cuneo as is shown by their coats of arms at the base of the lunettes.
Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translations: Europa 92
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925
Padre Giuseppe, Sandra Viada