Church of San Pietro
The small church of San Pietro is on a hillside, located a few hundred metres from the present-day town of Calliano. This town, in line with the historical and territorial macinations of this area of Piedmont, moved from the church’s current location in the thirteenth century, to gather around the castle, a bastion for the people of Monferrato and Asti.
San Pietro is the oldest of the Romanesque churches in Monferrato, being documented from as early as 886 when it was fully under French ownership. The document from this date consists of a sale made by Adalardo, the priest of San Pietro along with the French owner, Amandolone. The church in this document was probably not the oriented, three-nave Romanesque church that we know today, of which remains only the central apse measuring around two metres. In fact the stylistic characteristics of the structure built using regular sandstone blocks, divided by semi-columns into three panels resting on a moulded base, now almost completely underground, lead us to think that the current building dates back to the eleventh century. This supposition is further supported by comparison with the church of San Giorgio of Casorzo. The two churches have very similar splayed single lancet windows in their apses and similar pseudo cubic capitals on their semi-columns. The documents do not enlighten us much on this gap in time, but they do show that in 1003 San Pietro was under the jurisdiction of the parish of Grana, led by the diocese of Asti. Subsequently, when the parish of Casale was established in 1474 San Pietro was then placed under its jurisdiction.The pastoral visit of 1568 provides us with an incredibly detailed description of the church. At this moment in time it was outside the walls of Calliano, it was built of brick and had three naves and a painted apse depicting evangelist symbols, God the Father and the saints.
By 1665 the church had already been abandoned, and was in ruins. It no longer celebrated Mass, if not on the day of the patron saint. The gradual decline reduced drastically the dimensions of the building: by the late nineteenth century there were no longer any aisles and the three bays of the church were reduced to one.
In 1985, during the reconstruction of the roof, on the right side of the triumphal arch above the vault, a fresco fragment was found depicting the Announcing Angel, a rare example of Asti Trecento painting. This fresco dates from the same period as the fresco in the cloister of Vezzolano that depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned, namely around the third decade. This encapsulates the mediated influence of Giotto in this area beyond the Alps, whereas San Pietro can be more identified as an example of ‘giottism’ as mediated by the culture of the Po Valley.
PITTARELLO L. (a cura di), Le chiese romaniche delle campagne astigiane. Un repertorio per la loro conoscenza, conservazione, tutela, Torino – Asti, Soprintendenza per i beni ambientali e architettonici del Piemonte – Provincia di Asti, 1984 (ed. 1998), p. XXV e pp. 59-62.
RAGUSA E., Dagli Angiò ai Visconti e agli Orleans: pittura del Trecento ad Asti, in G. Romano, Pittura e miniatura del Trecento in Piemonte, Torino, 1997, pp. 40-41.
TOSI A., Chiesa dei S.S. Pietro e Paolo – Calliano, in a cura di, Osservatorio del Paesaggio, “Il paesaggio del romanico astigiano”, CRASTI, 2006, p. 101.