Church of San Bartolomeo
The church of San Bartolomeo, built on a small hill, is nestled in the rolling woodlands of the nature reserve of Valle Andona-Valle Botto-Valle Grande. Sitting on the border between the municipalities of Camerano and Cortazzone, it is precisely located in the locality of Rivo Croso, a short distance from a ruined farmhouse. This offers a typical example of the displacement of settlements, a phenomenon which persisted for centuries: in this case from the twelfth century to the present.
The documented historical information regarding this church is scarse: the place ‘San Bartolomeo of ‘Rivo Croso” is mentioned in some transcripts of 1227and 1246. In 1345 the church, which was probably parochial and had a small cemetery, was dependent upon the parish church of Santa Maria di Pisenzana di Montechiaro, one of the most powerful churches in the northern Asti area, cited as early as 907.
The small church is a single nave, mostly built using local sandstone with ashlar masonry whose different size and texture may indicate at least two construction phases. During the first phase large square blocks were used, which we can find in the lower parts of the façade and in the apse, whereas during the second phase small, often irregular stone blocks were used, noticeable particularly on the lateral walls.
In comparison with other Romanesque buildings in the area, San Bartolomeo, which in its oldest parts dates back to the twelfth century, appears to be very simple both in its structures and decorative elements, preserved only in the outer part of the apse.
The apse has undergone numerous changes throughout the centuries. It is currently divided into three panels by thin and narrow pilasters, underlined by monolithic arched cornicing, and topped by a row of ashlar blocks in damier. In fact, a third construcive phase is identifiable by the regular rows of brick, used to fill in the lancet window in the south apse and most notably the upper area of the façade. These works were probably carried out as a result of the pastoral visit of 1628 which ordered either the demolition or the restoration of the church. Fortunately the second option was chosen, and by 1635 it was restored and fit for worship once again.
During the eighteenth century official visits to San Bartolomeo continue to be recorded, but soon a lack of care led to major structural decay. In 1978 the roof and part of the apse collapsed, leading to a reconstructive intervention. During the work on the base of the apse, a block sculpted with oval spirals was uncovered, enclosing some fleshy, veined leaves, now preserved at the local MIBAC (Ministery of Cultural Heritage and Tourism) authority.
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), pp. 63-69.
EYDOUX E., Origini e prime vicende di Camerano, in “Archivi e cultura in Asti”, Asti, 1971, p. 68 e p. 80.
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