Chiesa di San Michele
The municipality of Passerano, which includes the former municipalities of Marmorito and Primeglio-Schierano, documents the existence of two churches from the Romanesque period: San Michele di Primeglio and Santa Maria del Castello.
Historically, the most ancient testimonies can be found in the rationes decimarum of the diocese of Vercelli drawn up between the end of the thirteenth century and around the mid-fifteenth century. These documents show that, originally, the town of Passerano was head of the church of San Pietro and Marmorito was the head of the church of San Giovanni. Primeglio, meanwhile, was head of the San Lorenzo church and the church of San Giovanni and Schierano head of the San Martino church. Near Passerano, another church of San Pietro was linked with the settlement of Fabiasco , which has since disappeared. The village churches belonged to the nearby, very powerful, parish of Pino. The first full description of Santa Maria di Passerano appears only in the sixteenth century is fully described only in the sixteenth century, in the account of the bishop Bonomi: “… a single nave, missing floor and vaults, the walls preserved fragments of ancient paintings …”. The church was used by the population as a co-parish, but remained in fact under the control of by the consortium lords, the Counts of Radicati. Subsequently the church ceased to be regularly officiated and worship was moved to San Pietro, the parish church that was rebuilt at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Today, Santa Maria del Castello, despite being in good condition and occassionally open to the public during the summer months, has effectively become a private chapel.
In the late thirteenth century, we find a prioratus de Primelio which seems to have been under the control of the monasterium sancti Januarii. This was the Abbey of San Genuario Lucedio and was one of the most important abbeys in Piedmont in the Middle Ages. The priory can be considered as the church of San Michele di Primeglio “ecclesia sancti Michaelis extra et prope locum Primelij que vocatur Monasterii Ecclesia” which was still in existence at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is mentioned in the pastoral visit in 1606, but declared as being diruta (ruined) and apparently no longer linked with the abbey of Lucedio. The dedication to San Michele probably originated in the twelfth century, when the added title of San Genuario he began to prevail over the primitive (that of San Michele) in the eyes of the head abbey. During the mid eighteenth century the religious jurisdictions of this area were divided into three parishes: Marmorito, Passerano and Primeglio-Schierano with the three churches, respectively, San Giovanni Battista, San Pietro and San Lorenzo. Two benefici survived, one being Santa Maria, in Passerano, the church of the castle, and the other San Michele in Primeglio, which appears to have been the old priory of St. Genuario Lucedio.
Today the church of San Michele in “Monastè” is marked on maps with the name “ruined Convent”. Of the original building remains a part of the nave and the apse whereas the roof and the facade have both collapsed. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the nave had already been reduced to about half its original length, in order to use the leftover materials for the construction of the parish church at Passerano. The apse is better preserved, it is a semicircular shape, and is divided into four panels by rectangular pilasters, which correspond with four small windows arched with a double ring of brick and stone. We can deduce from their height that the planking level of the older building (probably from the thirteenth century) was around a metre lower that the current level. The state of disrepair and the dense vegetation around the church prevents more detailed analysis.
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, pp. 124, 128.
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. LXXXII-LXXXIII.
BATTISTONI M. a cura di, Comune di Passerano Marmorito, Schede storiche-territoriali dei comuni del Piemonte, 2005.
PIA E.C., Fonti e materiali sul rapporto tra strutture ecclesiastiche e insediamento: notizie storiche e analisi delle vicende costruttive di due chiese del nord dell’Astigiano, in «I Quaderni di Muscandia», 10 (2010), pp. 169-173.