Church of Sant’Andrea of Casaglio
The church of Sant’Andrea can be found in the village of Casaglio, located on a hill parallel to that of the town of Cerreto that can be barely glimpsed through dense woods interrupted at times by small vineyards.
The earliest information relating to the church dates back to a few years after the year 1000. On June 24, 1008 Alrico, bishop of Asti, endowed land and churches to the female monastery of Sant’Anastasio in Asti and emalgamated it with four small monasteries in the diocese, including Sancti Andree de Casallo. Subsequent bishops of Asti reaffirmed Sant’Andrea’s belonging to the abbess of Sant’Anastasio and, from 1186 onwards, Pope Urban III authorized the nuns to elect priests for parish churches in their property. These nuns, therefore, were not only associated with the church of Sant’Andrea, but they were responsible for the wellbeing of the parish. This can be further demonstrated by the documentation that in the sixteenth century, when the population moved to Cerreto and used the San Michele oratory to worship, they found the oratory in a very poor condition. The abbess of Athanasius was ordered by the bishop, on pain of excommunication, to make it accessibile so that the population could attend Mass.
From the beginning of the seventeenth century, nuns were no longer present at Casaglio, and it was in that period that the original Romanesque building underwent a substantial change. Being, by that time, dilapidated, it was demolished, leaving only a portion of the facade which features the elegant, lunar-shaped main portal made from sandstone and brick. The rebuilding was carried out reusing old materials and in fact we can still see a mixture of brick and stone in the lateral walls. We can also see square, stone quoins and some sculpted elements of the stonework that carry specific decorative motifs typical of the Monferrato Romanesque. The original church was thus transformed into a simple country chapel with a single, rectangular nave. It wasn’t restructered with respect to the original church, probably to preserve the foundations of the pillars dividing the nave from the north aisle. Part of the first pillar is still visible in situ, specifically the pillar’s semicapitello carved with acanthus leaves and elegant swirls.
The church never fell out of use, even if it was only used for the festivities of the patron saint. The abbess of Sant’Anastasio retained jurisdiction of Sant’Andrea until 1802, when the Napoleonic suppression of religious bodies began to affect the area.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century the building, which was falling down and severely delapidated, was restored with great care. The focus was on the inside of the church, restoring the altar which was built in 1699. The floor was restored, returning this thousand year-old building to a more appropriate layout and condition.
SILICANI G.P. Sant’Andrea di Casaglio Storia e arte di una chiesa e di una Comunità del Nord Astigiano, Cerreto d’Asti, Parrocchia di Sant’Andrea, 1996.
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. 91-93