CASORZO
Church of San Giorgio – Madonna delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace)

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This original Romanesque building, with a leaning bell tower on its north side, was incorporated in the nineteenth century (around 1840) into an important complex, consisting of a small rectory and the beautiful central-plan church with an external colonnade depicting the ‘Madonna delle Grazie’ (Our Lady of Grace).
During the nineteenth-century the church’s Romanesque structures were raised, including the bell tower, and the main entrance was closed up to allow for an interior stairwell. The nave was used as a chapel for the neoclassical church. In 1982 the collapse of the rectory brought to light the base of the Romanesque bell tower whose outer walls, like those of the original church, were built with perfectly squared ashlar sandstone, skilfully interconnected, with almost no visible joins. The conservation of the church’s southern side and of the apse allows for a comprehensive reading of the original Romanesque walls. Here we can observe the elegance of the cornicing, made up of intertwined suspended arches often carved out of monoliths, crowned by decorative bands. The two windows in the apse, marked by two small half-columns, are double splayed and underlined by five sloping offsets. A singular cross-shaped opening cross made up of five circular holes (the number five could symbolize the five wounds of Christ) carved from a single ashlar stone is placed above a small (currently closed up) door to the side of the main altar.
Documents tell us that the church was registered in the pastoral visits of the Vercelli diocese from 1298, as being under the administration of the Rosignano parish. However, the building is undoubtedly older than this and scholars can date it, by comparison with other churches, back to the twelfth century.
During the fifteenth century San Giorgio lost its original title and together with the Church of San Vincenzo was placed under the control of the parish of Santa Maria di Piazza, an arrangement that would continue for some time. In 1584, the land surrounding the church was declared hallowed ground and began to serve as a cemetery.
On the outside of the church, graffiti carved between the seventeenth and the twentieth century testify to various contemporary events in Casorzo: hail, drought, the assassination of King Umberto I of Italy…
In the year 2000, on the occasion of Pope John II’s Jubilee, substantial restoration work was carried out on the building with the aim of a renewed communal use for the building. During this work several ancient frescoes were discovered in a compartment at the base of the bell tower.

Bibliography

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. 70-74.
GALVAN C., Chiesa di San Giorgio e Madonna delle Grazie. Casorzo, in a cura di Osservatorio del Paesaggio, “Il paesaggio del romanico astigiano”, CRASTI, 2006, pp. 106-109.
www.centrocasalis.it
RAVIOLA B.A., Comune di Casorzo, Schede storiche-territoriali dei comuni del Piemonte, s.d.