MONTIGLIO MONFERRATO – SCANDELUZZA
Church of Santi Sebastiano and Fabiano
The church of SS. Sebastiano and Fabiano de Caxia, was witness to a classic example of medieval settlement transferral. In 1304, following an “agreement” signed by the Marquis of Monferrato and the local lords, (the Cocconito of Montiglio) it was determined that “all men” living in Caxium, the ancient settlement that once stood near the current cemetery at Scandeluzza, were to transfer their homes into the vicinity of a new fortress (fortalicia bona et fortis) erected around the church of Santa Maria di Scandeluzza, whose jurisdiction would be divided between the lords and the Marquis. The inhabitants obeyed, and only the church of Saints Sebastian and Fabiano and the consecrated ground around it remained of the village of Caxia. This sacred ground was then used over the centuries as place to bury the dead. In fact the first mention of the church at Caxia comes in 1298, albeit under the name of Santo Stefano, when it appears in the register of churches in the diocese of Vercelli. A little later, in 1348, it is cited again, this time under the name of San Sebastian de Caxio and is recorded as being under the jurisdiction of the parish church of San Lorenzo in Montiglio. The church of SS. Sebastian and Fabiano was, therefore, already in existence in the thirteenth century, as is indeed evidenced by the stone blocks incorporated into its fifteenth-century structures. The building does probably, however, date back even further to the eleventh and twelfth centuries and the original church was probably a contemporary of the Romanesque churches of Monferrato.
The current building is oriented, with a single nave and a semicircular apse enriched by beautiful doubled eaves made from small clay arches, on sculpted bases, and crowned by spirals carved into reused stone blocks. At the side of the apse there is an opening with pointed arches that give the apse a gothic look. In fact, inside the church an inscription recalls the fifteenth-century rebuilding and subsequent consecration that took place in May 1429. The frescoes inside the church can be dated back to this period, one notable fresco is in the apse and depicts San Sebastiano and the Christ Pantocrator amongst the symbols for the four Evangelists. In 1817 the signature “de Pillis”, the artist, was still legible, but has since disappeared. This was the same artist that went on to work on the church of San Pietro in the nearby town of Portacomaro and on the chapel on the Archangel Michele in San Secondo, Asti. Over the centuries the building decayed so much that in 1584 the apostolic visitor Monsignor Carlo Montiglio ordered that the cemetery should be deforested and that the floor should be replaced.
In the 1870s, the architect Count Edoardo Arborio Mella carried out enormous restoration works on the entire building, completely reconstructing the facade in neo-Romanesque forms. The project also concerned the fifteenth-century frescos, which were covered by paintings of a certain Cesare Pifferi. It was only in 1991 (with a contribution from Ministry of Cultural Heritage) that the heavy nineteenth century repainting was removed and the frescoes were uncovered.
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. XX, XLI, 169-174.
BATTISTONI M., LOMBARDINI S., TORRE A., a cura di, Comune di Montiglio, Schede storiche-territoriali dei comuni del Piemonte, s.d.
GALVAN C., Chiesa dei S.S. Sebastiano e Fabiano Scandeluzza, in a cura di, Osservatorio del Paesaggio, “Il paesaggio del romanico astigiano”, CRASTI, 2006, pp. 188-189.