Church of San Giorgio già Pieve di Vergnano
Whilst Moncucco is really located in the province of Asti, it lies on the border between the zones of Monferrato (to which it historically belongs) and Collina Torinese.
The area has been inhabited since ancient times but it was during the Middle Ages that this ancient village was really created and developed. The lords of the area between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries were the powerful Lawyers of the Bishop of Turin, a family of lay officials that assisted the bishop in the management of his property interests. During the 1200’s the family produced two Templar knights: the brothers Nicholas and Jacob. Both were involved in the dramatic events surrounding the suppression of the Order in 1307: the first brother was arrested and tried in the island of Cyprus whilst the second was appointed as the last Grand Prefect of Italy for the Order of the Temple.
In this area and its surroundings, the origins of Christianity date back to the early Middle Ages. Right in the territory of Moncucco, around three kilometres north-west of the village, we can find the ancient church of San Giorgio in the Vergnano valley, an independent parish church until 1957 and one of the oldest places of worship in the ancient medieval diocese of Turin. Numerous other, smaller churches, scattered around a vast area that stretched to Casalborgone, were dependent upon the Pieve of Vergnano. The importance of this plebian district during the Middle Ages was strategic, because it was a border area close to the diocese of Ivrea, to which belonged the nearby Berzano San Pietro, and Vercelli, to which belonged Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
Vergnano and its pieve, the existence of which are attested for since 1265, have undergone many dramatic highs and lows throughout their history. In 1290 the Chierese army conquered “castrum et villam Veregnani” and in 1325 “combustum fuit castrum Verge” – a fire broke out in the area. The church probably escaped this fire because in 1386 the cattedratico, the tax owed to the bishop’s ministery, is recorded as having been paid more consistently by the pieve and its jurisdiction. There were in fact around twenty smaller churches placed under the rectorial control of San Giorgio. In many cases these were churches that served small villages only to then be abandoned and disappear during the following centuries. The jurisdiction of Vergnano was so extensive that it started from the church of San Siro of Casalborgone, at the borders of the diocese of Ivrea, and stretched all the way up to Moriondo Mombello and the border with the diocese of Asti. Subsequently historical events and the isolated position of the church led to its decline and it became a simple parish church. In his visit of 1475 the bishop lamented that the church had no pulpit, and that there were no traces of the Cross. In the pastoral visits of 1585 and subsequent years San Giorgio continued to be in poor condition, was no longer taken care of, and it was even stated that “… it is to be rebuilt.” In the eighteenth century the church still retained its medieval forms as described by the prior Don Casalegno “… the parish church is located on a hill. The interior form consists of three naves, supported by four pillars … the floor is grossollano, the walls are not in good condition … ” but it was heading for ruin.
It was not until the early nineteenth century, in 1833, when the village of Vergnano had virtually disappeared, that the building was completely rebuilt in its present form and that only historical memory would remain of the powerful Romanesque church of Vergnano.
SETTIA A.A., Insediamenti abbandonati sulla collina torinese, in BSBS, 1975.
FASSINO G., La chiesa di San Giorgio Martire in Val di Vergnano.
BATTISTONI M., LOMBARDINI S., a cura di, Comune di Moncucco, Schede storiche-territoriali dei comuni del Piemonte, 2004.
PEDRONI D., Ambivalenza funzionariale e signorile nel Duecento: i “domini” di Moncucco, avvocati della chiesa di Torino e castellani di Rivoli, in BSBS, 2005, pp. 39-152.
CAPPELLINO M., Moncucco Torinese. Vergnano. Chiesa di San Giorgio, in CROCE V., a cura di, Tra gotico e neogotico. Le chiesa parrocchiali astigiane, Asti, Cassa di Risparmio di Asti, 2012, p. 344.