Church of S. Giovanni Battista - Sanctuary of Virgo Fidelis

Address: Piazza Garibaldi, 14045 Incisa Scapaccino AT, Italia

The Church of S. Giovanni Battista stands on the highest point of the Borgo Villa, in Incisa Scapaccino.

It is the first sanctuary in Italy dedicated to the Carabinieri: Virgo Fidelis, in fact, is the patron saint of the police force.

The building was reopened to the public on 3 October 2014 after extensive restoration work.

The first reliable reference that allows us to bear witness to the presence of the church in Incisa is dated 1254; from a subsequent document dated August 4, 1282, it emerges that in San Giovanni there was a group consisting of a provost and three canons, de longa consuetudine ibidem diutius observata.

As far as the map is concerned, the aforementioned religious constituted a part of the collegiate established at the parish since the first days of its foundation and formed not only by the aforementioned members, but also by an archpriest. The church, which the document induces to believe has existed for a long time, will therefore be considered coeval, if not earlier, to the castle, which belonged to Bonifacio d'Incisa. it is to be assumed, in fact, that at the same time as the castle hill, the feudal lords and the community felt the need for a place of worship, to this by assigning a preexisting chapel, perhaps enlarged or, more probably, building a new sacred building.

Could then go back to the Marquises the initiative to call the canons and the provost to take up residence at the new church which, under the title of San Giovanni, thus assumes the seat of the prevostura, while the archpriest, who was responsible for the spiritual care of the faithful, he would remain in the original plebeian residence.

The church of the prevostura stood on the same area where the current one was built and the space on which today is overlooked the churchyard was occupied by the cemetery; a short stretch of road connected it, through the door of San Giovanni, to the Castle. In 1514, during the sacking of Incisa and the conquest of the fortress, the Monferrato artillery also struck the sacred building that was demolished in totum except the bell tower.

Of the initial construction there is no representation except for a watercolor of the second half of the nineteenth century, whose origin and reliability are not known, according to which the church would have been three naves with the central one considerably higher of the laterals. The reconstruction after the looting took place only after many years because of the turbulent political situation that involved the marquisate of Incisa and the surrounding area. The incisians, however, seemed not to complain about the lack of a parish church as they are now accustomed to frequenting the canonical house and the nearby oratory of the Disciplinati where the Divine Offices were regularly celebrated. In 1568, accompanying the project of “cutting the Belbo” (never realized) appears a drawing in pen and watercolor of the church as if it had already been rebuilt, however, the first document that reveals a precise commitment of the City and the Provost to pose end of the delay is five years later, going back to 21 October 1573.

Observing the aforementioned representation, it is noted that the external type of building corresponds to that of the future church: a gabled building with a south facing façade and four windows facing west, as shown on the eastern side, a later sketch executed in the 1638. It can therefore be assumed that the project, already prepared for some time, was known to the draftsman who used it in his work.

The project included a decent one-nave building flanked by two alae. The works entrusted to the faber murarius Lorenzo Piana civis aqensis, were begun and continued promptly. Work was completed in the spring of 1575. The church appeared to a single nave with three altars: the main one and two more erected near the walls, one of which dedicated to the Madonna del Rosario and the other reserved to the archpriest. The old bell tower belonging to the municipality that used it for the convocation of the council and other particular uses was preserved. Only in 1581 the parish priest Don Anselmo Avellano settled in Incisa.

The sackings suffered by Incisa in the seventeenth century, especially those of 1637 by the Spanish soldiers who besieged Nizza Monferrato and 1642 by the French, as well as the frequent raids consumed by the passing armies, did not spare the church of San Giovanni, although the sacred places, by virtue of the special prerogative, should not have been violated.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the building “threatened to ruin”. The community and the parish priest, encouraged by the arrival of more favorable times, and also urged by the demographic increase, agreed to expand it.

To the central part two side aisles were placed side by side and a new façade was raised making it advance five meters towards the square. When the work was finished, the church measured m 31 in length and m 16.50 in width. Subsequently, the work of renewal and furnishing was continued, on 25 September 1831 the new valuable marble baptismal font was blessed and inaugurated.

In 1978, as previously, there were disruptions and subsidence in the floor and serious injuries in the supporting structures that made the church unusable.

The building was reopened to the public on 3 October 2014 after extensive restoration work.

It stands in a panoramic position.

For more information:

See also...

• Events in Incisa Scapaccino

• Incisa Scapaccino tourist guide

• Municipium, the App of your Municipality