Carbognano, Church of San Donato
According to what is reported by the historian Martinelli, the church of San Donato finds its foundation on the remains of ancient pagan buildings located nearby: “It was also built in the past centuries a church to St. Donato Bishop of Arezzo, in the coast of the most practiced mountain, that from Carbognano leads to Caprarola, and in its surroundings you can see traces of ancient buildings, and among others in the possession of Dr. Carlo Ulisse appeared a big wall, which was cleaned in the year 1656, measured 80 palms long and fifteen palms wide with large and massive slab” (F. MARTINELLI, Carbognano illustrated by Mr. Fioravante Martinelli. Rome, 1694, p. 35). Beyond the ancient vestiges of pagan ruins once scattered in the neighboring areas and in part still existing near the church but no longer visible, the documentation acquired in fact has never produced much support. The oral tradition reports these ruins of the basement of an ancient temple present and visible until the ’60s, but now no longer identifiable. It is precisely the scant documentation existing for Carbognano until the end of ‘400 that limits us in the knowledge of the whole first period of the building of the church, attested by bibliographic tradition as one of the oldest churches of the village. Between the XIII and the XIV century in central-northern Italy the religious cult of the holy Bishop of Arezzo was revived (G. A. Montezemolo, Cenni storici sovra la vita, gesta e culto di San Donato vescovo di Arezzo e martire, titolar patrono della città e diocesi di Mondovì, con note sui primordi della chiesa monregalese, Mondovì 1885. ), attesting in some centers of Tuscia the building and the titling of some churches dedicated to him (Civita di Bagnoregio, Vetriolo, Celleno); so it is probable that under the mass religious enthusiasm also in Carbognano took root the veneration of the Saint and the consequent building of the church dedicated to him. Unfortunately we don’t know when this happened, although from the 6th century, the year of his martyrdom, the first Passio Donati is known, and in the following centuries other Passiones were produced, all hagiographies of medieval origin, of debated reliability, up to the “Cronaca dei custodi”, a document of the 11th century. If the archaeological finds still present in the church refer us to this ancient pagan building of remote ages, the pictorial works still in situ testify us an assiduous attendance referable substantially to the 15th and 16th centuries. As a convention, it is usual to date the church to the 15th century, supporting the same dating through the presence of these works. Already at the beginning of 1500 we know that men and women of Carbognano were buried in the church (ASVIT, protocol 8, notarial Carbognano notary Petrus Johannes Theotonei. Protocol 2, notarial Carbognano, various notaries). The rural connotation of the small church overcame the centuries through bequests and donations. In 1778 century, as attested by the epigraph placed in the pavement, the church had devotees who took care of the poor, such as the Viro Francesco Martinozio who died at the age of 84, and thanks to their munificence the building itself was supported. Even in the 19th century the same legacies allowed the survival of the church. Through a testament drawn up on August 14, 1891, we know that Andrea Nizi obliged his heirs to “restore the church and to the perpetual annual maintenance of the factory of San Donato, excluding the hermitage. (Cf. R. Innocenti, Carbognano. Viterbo 2001. p. 22). In 1906 the prior wrote to the mayor of the Community of Carbognano about the maintenance of the church of San Donato and about the supply of oil and wax necessary for the Blessed Sacrament. Given the unsuccessful outcome of the letter, the prior increased the dose by proposing a special mortgage by way of testament, an initiative that in November of that year finally saw a solution. Through another letter the prior communicated saved the church thanks to the maintenance obtained by the heirs Nizzi, rather than the maintenance by the faithful of the village. In the years to follow we find witnessed by the documentation restoration interventions for the church of San Donato in 1947, in 1958 and in 1976 when the roof and the interior were restored. The building had annexed a hermitage, perhaps represented by today’s sacristy, or by some other body attached to the factory. At Carbognano San Donato was celebrated on August 7, the presumable day of his death, with various celebrations: “corsa di palij, lotta ed altre feste boscarecce”. San Donato, alongside Saint Eutizio, Saint Vincenzo and Saint Filippo Neri, was one of the patron saints of the land of Carbognano until the 17th century (ASCC, SAR 2/11, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, June 1, 1626, cc. 73v – 75r).
The church is located in the street of the same name at number 38. The façade of the church of San Donato is characterized by a simple gabled structure with a small central portal with a superimposed oculus. Near the apsidal wall, on the left side, there is a small belfry without a bell.
Five steps lead to the interior, which has a single small nave with a trussed roof. The left wall is almost completely devoid of decorations, except for the terminal part where there is a fresco datable between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, representing a nobleman kneeling in prayer and dressed in Renaissance clothes, probably a donor promoting proceeds and/or donations to the church. Two steps at three quarters of the nave lead us to the area once dedicated to the presbyters, slightly higher. In the apsidal gallery there is an ancient semicircular stone seat that would testify the antiquity of the church. Of the apsidal wall, fragments of frescoes survive, mainly in the apsidal basin and in the right wall. In the central part of the apsidal basin there is a fragment with a panel showing the Virgin and Child between angels in the upper part, and angels praying in the apsidal lunette. To the right of the central scene there is a XV century painting with Saint Paul and Saint Francis facing the Virgin. In the part of the wall to the right of the basin survives the panel of the fresco dedicated to the titular saint of the church: San Donato. Unfortunately its conditions prevent a clear legibility of the work. Overpainting and retouching over the centuries have not altered the general layout of the fresco, which dates back to the 15th century: see, for example, the hieratic position of the saint and the throne seen through a strong foreshortening. To the right of the apse wall, a modern plaster statue of the Virgin rests on a base obtained from a decorated slab pertaining to an ancient pagan building. The right wall has in the area next to the apse wall three vertical panels and a horizontal one of smaller dimensions. The first vertical panel shows a small part of a fragment now illegible. The second one shows us a fresco datable between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, with Saint Egidio, easily recognizable by his attribute of the arrow. Under these two scenes, inserted in a horizontal ferzo, 8 female figures in prayer. This piece, which can be traced back to the middle of the 16th century, refers us to the possible attendance of the church by a group of sisters, probably referable to the female part of the confraternity that attended the church, the confraternity of the Holy Sacrament. The last piece on the right side, shows another personage represented kneeling to pray, also in this case as the previous one, made almost specularly on the opposite wall, it can be assumed a client / donor. Similarly to the previous one, the clothing frames him as a local nobleman, in typical Renaissance clothes. Closer to the entrance there is a large fresco or what survives of it. It deals with a piece divided in two horizontal sections, of which that one more in high shows us an architecture of a palace characterized by a rich prospect obtained to monochrome yellow ochre color, where columns binate are developed to characterize a delicious stately loggia. In the lower scene the legibility is almost compromised beyond the purple monochrome that characterized it. On the pavement, at three quarters of the nave in the final part of the church, we find the epigraph realized in commemoration of Francesco Martinozio, dated August 8th 1778.
V. Aramini, Sicut Archivium inventum fuit”. The Ecclesiastical Archives of Carbognano (Viterbo). New Ordering and Computerized Inventory. Thesis, Faculty of the University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Academic Year 2005/2006.
R. Ceccarelli – O. Tartarini, Carbognano, yesterday, today and tomorrow. 1940.
G. SILVESTRELLI, Cities and Castles and Lands of the Roman Region. Rome, 1940.
V. D’ARCANGELI, Carbognano in Tuscia Viterbese. Rome 1968.
F. MARTINELLI, Carbognano illustrated by Mr. Fioravante Martinelli. Rome, 1694.
G. A. Montezemolo, Cenni storici sovra la vita, geste e culto di San Donato vescovo di Arezzo e martire, titolar patrono della città e diocesi di Mondovì, con note sui primordi della chiesa monregalese, Mondovì 1885.
R. Innocenti, Carbognano. Viterbo 2001.
ASVIT, protocollo 8, notarile carbognano, notaio Petrus Johannes Theotonei. ASVIT, Protocollo 2, notarile Carbognano, notai vari.