Carbognano, Church of San Filippo Neri
The birth of the church of San Filippo Neri is due to the enthusiasm and the devotion of the people of Carbognano towards Filippo Neri, who used to attend the Cimina locality during his life, together with the political and religious care of the Filipino father Orazio Giustiniani, which led to the construction of the church in the years following the canonization of the founder of the Oratorians. From the middle of the 16th century, the villa that the Oratorians of Santa Maria in Valicella in Rome had received from Giovanni Tartarini, Paul III’s secret Chamberlain, located near Carbognano (cf. A. Cistellini, San Filippo Neri. The Oratory and the Oratorian Congregation. Storia e spiritualità, I-III, Brescia 1989), had become the convalescent home for the spiritual and physical care of the congregation. Their presence at the Cimino center had been supported by the niece of Giulia Farnese, Lavinia Della Rovere, Lady of Carbognano, who had a direct devotional and spiritual relationship with the Oratorians of Rome and in particular with Philip Neri. Beginning in 1583 they had undertaken a series of land purchases in the contrada sant’Eutizio in Carbognano (ASVIT, Notarile Carbognano n° 21, Anno 1583 cc. 77; 79 – 80; 83.), purchases that were soon transformed into a substantial land patrimony. By the end of the sixteenth century, the spiritual character of the Oratorians had made so much room in the Cimino community that the ancient church of Saint Eutizio in Carbognano, located close to the Philippine hospital residence, was already entrusted to the fathers, as well as all the churches of the town would soon belong to the apostolate of Vallicella. The assiduous frequency of Philip Neri in the village, and the miraculous events he worked, contributed to feed that religious emphasis that after the years of Philip’s death (1595), and after his sanctification (1622), went more and more growing. In 1623 a solemn procession was made through the streets of Carbognano with the relics of the saint, carried among the sounds of fifes, mortals and songs, with the participation of the whole population, the church and civil representatives. (ASCC, SAR 2/10, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, August 17, 1623, cc. 101v -102r.). These relics (Pianeta, a cloth soaked in the saint’s blood, a lock of hair and the saint’s entrails), and a painting of the saint, had been sent by the Oratorians of the Chiesa Nova of Vallicella in Rome, through Father Orazio Giustiniani, a Filipino father from Carbognano who had been moved by a fervent religious following. The route of the procession from the church of Madonna della Valle would take the sacred objects to their final destination in the parish church of San Pietro, passing through the church of Santa Maria. On the way, these relics made a stop at an altar set up for the occasion in front of the place where the church dedicated to the saint would soon be built. “said relics and picture were placed in another altar made in the site where the church of the said glorious San Filippo was dedicated and destined to be built with lit candles and other solemnities. Said the usual oratione was made great joy pulling arquebuses mortaletti … and sounds and songs … “. Father Giustiniani, fervent follower of Filippo Neri, at the turn of 1623 had therefore started the works of the church’s construction by using the materials coming from the church of Saint Valentine, by then ruined (F. Martinelli, Carbognano Illustrato dal Sig. Fioravante Martinelli romano, Rome 1694, pp 32, 41). On March 26, 1626, the blessing had already been given to the newborn Church of San Filippo, and the first mass had been celebrated (ASCC, SAR 2/11, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, March 26, 1626, cc. 71v – 73r. ), although the final conclusion of the work came only after a few years. In June of the same year San Filippo Neri was officially inserted in the acts of the town councils as patron of the Community of Carbognano together with the other patron saints: San Donato, Sant’Eutizio and San Vincenzo. San Filippo Neri would be celebrated from then on in the recurrence of the 26th of May (ASCC, SAR 2/11, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, June 1, 1626, cc. 73v – 75r). In 1628 the church of the glorious San Filippo Neri was officially ordered in the land of Carbognano (ASCC, SAR 2/11, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, May 21, 1628, cc. 164r -166r). In 1635 happened one of the most important miracles post mortem of San Filippo, the return to life of a child who had died in an accident during a patronal feast. This was one of the events that led to the final completion of the church named after him in Carbognano. After the nomination of Orazio Giustiniani as first custodian of the Vatican Apostolic Library received by Urban VIII (1630), the Oratorian succeeded in having the works of the church definitively finished in 1636, as it is attested by the date placed in the epigraph on the trabeation of the portal of the church, also thanks to the moral and economic participation of the population of Carbognano, exactly the year after the miraculous event. Thus was born the first church dedicated to St. Philip Neri of all Christianity. At the high altar of the church of San Filippo was placed the picture that had been carried in procession and a silver reliquary with the relics of the saint that had been donated by Father Giustiniani in 1625 (ASCC, SAR 2/11, Atti Deliberativi – Libri dei Consigli, June 8, 1625, cc. 6v -7v. It is probable that an initial planning and construction phase was followed by decisive reconstructive interventions in the middle of the century, carried out by Prince Giulio Cesare junior, as is suggested by the reference to the foundation of the church dated 1546 by the historian Cistellini (A. Cistellini, San Filippo Neri. L’oratorio e la congregazione oratoriana. Storia e spiritualità, III, n. 193. Brescia 1989, p. 2322.). Presumably there were no other major events related to the factory, beyond the information that at the turn of the mid-nineteenth century several works and accessories coming directly from the church of Santa Maria dell’Immacolata Concezione were brought to the church of San Filippo (ASCC; Visita Apostolica Vescovo Mengacci, 1853). From the sources of the diaries of Don Pietro Totonelli, parish priest of Carbognano, we know that in 1966 the church was restored. In those restorations the new floor was made, the balustrade that divided the hall from the presbytery was removed and in the same area of the presbytery the travertine floor was made. Moreover, the new electrical system was realized and two of the side chapels with their respective altars were removed. In 2008 the church underwent a last intervention of restoration that allowed to preserve at least the baroque plant that still characterizes the whole structure.
The church, isolated building on the homonymous square, presents itself in all its particularity with the complex simplicity of the façade, characterized by its monochromatic white-on-white architecture, and for its slender appearance with essential moldings that produce in the diaphragm of the prospectus a baroque style almost neoclassical. A central portal is surmounted by a tympanum. On the lintel of the portal we find engraved to remember the definitive date of end of works: “S. PHILIPPI. N. MDCXXXVI”. The false lateral portals(2) of smaller dimensions conceived as windows, are surmounted by false foreparts. A first stringcourse frame delimits the first order, on which develops at the center, a niche inside which is painted an image of San Filippo protecting Carbognano, a work realized by Fabio Carosi in 2008. At the sides of the niche there are two oculi; two big pilasters ending with Corinthian capitals at the top close the façade laterally. A third and last order develops above the cornice that acts as a canopy for the order below. A curvilinear tympanum closes the whole decorative structure at the top with a pavilion crowning. On the left side, separated from the structure of the church is the bell tower, with its apparently Romanesque lines, but, given the complete absence of documentary evidence that refers it to previous periods, as hypothesized by Innocenti (R. Innocenti, Carbognano 2001. pp. 21 – 22), it is to be referred to a coeval period to the building of the church (see the identical profile in the termination church / bell tower). Inside the bell tower there are 3 bells, named respectively St. Eutizio, St. Filippo and St. Martino. The smallest one is dated 1550, coming from the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria, transferred here in the second half of the 19th century (Apostolic Visit…). The other bigger one is dated 1843. Also the last one is of the XIX century, as it results from the blessing imparted by S. E. Bishop Mengacci made on November 12th 1854. The bells are mentioned inside the list made by the same Bishop of Orte and Civita Castellana in 1943, list delivered to the Prefect of Viterbo for the requisition never happened of the bells by the Ministry of War.
Two steps lead downwards to the interior of the church, characterized by a single nave of modest dimensions with a trussed roof. The side walls host two chapels (one on each side), two windows (one on each side) and 12 terracotta tiles of the Via Crucis: 7 on the left wall and 5 on the right wall. In the left wall immediately after the confessional, placed inside a frame, are preserved the laminated gold crowns once applied to the image of the Virgin and Child present a short distance inside the altar, and removed from the work in the restoration work carried out in 2015. The miraculous Image of the Madonna and Child painted on terracotta, found on a ridge of the gate of a vineyard in the locality of la Fontana in Carbognano was once inserted inside the Baroque altar that still has the architectural features so dear to the Filipino movement. In place of the terracotta table (now kept in the cathedral of San Pietro), a small canvas of the Virgin and Child (XVIII century) was placed, the one still visible. (F. Strinati, Carbognano, una cittadella filippina in Tuscia: la residenza agreste dei padri della Vallicella e la prima chiesa intitolata a san Filippo Neri in Annales Oratorii, Fascicoli 16, 2018, pp. 77 – 98.). The chapel was built thanks to the economic support of the “terrazzani”, i.e., the people of Carbognano, as reported by Martinelli (F. Martinelli, Carbognano Illustrato dal Sig. Fioravante Martinelli romano, Rome 1694, p. 41). Passing through the small door that leads to the sacristy, one arrives at the decorative machine of the high altar, where the oil canvas of the Ecstasy of San Filippo Neri is kept. It is a copy of the numerous representations of similar subject (perhaps among the oldest known) of the original made by Guido Reni for the beatification of the Saint, still preserved in the Chiesa Nuova in Rome, where the body of St. Philip rests (A. Pampalone, La vita di san Filippo Neri nei cicli figurativi, in A. Bianco [edited by], Iconography of a Saint. Nuovi studi sull’immagine di san Filippo Neri, Rome 2017, p. 163.). The work was presumably painted by an artist of clear oratorian setting, according to Anna Maria Pedrocchi referable to Francesco Ragusa, or at least comparable to the ways of the master of Cento. At the base of the pillar of the baroque plant there is the coat of arms with the rampant lion on the rose facing the column, heraldic emblem of prince Giulio Cesare Colonna junior – son of don Francesco – married after the death of his first wife Isabella Farnese, in second marriage with Margherita Sforza Attendoli). The decorative machine presents architectural findings present in a similar way at the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ruscello in Vallerano. The stucco decorations follow the ornamental design with broken curvilinear pediments on whose slopes recumbent angels lie. The embouchure of the arch is crossed by dynastic symbols, evangelical scenes, Christological scenes in the crowning, the columns supporting the tympanum have speaking plinths and a plastic of great softness. On the sides, frescoed reflections with Dominican saints probably refer to a decorative campaign related to the confraternity of the Holy Rosary erected in the cathedral and aggregated to the Roman one of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, perhaps dictated by the desire to pay homage to Cardinal Vincenzo Giustiniani, a member of the order of Friars Preachers. The high altar made of polychrome marble (17th century), is flanked on the right by the wooden statue of Saint Filippo Neri (the one carried in procession on the occasion of the saint’s feast), on the left by a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary of the 20th century. Beyond the high altar, on the right wall we find the other altar, mirroring the one on the opposite wall. Inside there is another canvas representing the Eucharistic Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua and a saint (Catherine of Alexandria?), a work of the 18th century. This altar was erected by Margherita Sforza Attendoli wife of the Prince of Carbognano Giulio Cesare Colonna dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. The three paintings, placed inside their respective altars, were restored by the Restoration Laboratory of the Province of Viterbo in 2015 (restorer Ottavio di Rita). At the beginning of the right wall is placed near the entrance of the church a ‘marble work of the fifteenth century, used as a holy water stoup, from the church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, like other objects mentioned in the Apostolic Visit of Cardinal Mengacci (1860). On the opposite wall there is a beautiful 17th century painted wooden choir stall. Through an iron spiral staircase situated on the left side of the church it is possible to reach the gallery of the Cantoria, where there is still an organ of the XVII century now disused. From the small door at the end of the left wall before the presbytery, you can access to a corridor which once led to the belfry, a passage now blocked by modern buildings (circoloARCI). The only room accessible from the small corridor is a small quadrangular room that was once the sacristy. Unfortunately, the low frequency of parishioners and the small number of presbyters (one for the whole parish), have created the condition that masses are no longer celebrated beyond a few events, especially after the latest events related to the Covid pandemic. The last restoration that involved the whole building was in 2008.
F. Martinelli, Carbognano Illustrato dal Sig. Fioravante Martinelli romano, Roma 1694, p. 10. E. Marchetti, Cesare Baronio promotore della riforma del Carmelo Scalzo, in L. Gulia [a cura di], Baronio e le sue fonti, Sora 2009, pp. 765-787. A. Cistellini, San Filippo Neri. L’Oratorio e la congregazione oratoriana. Storia e spiritualità, I-III, Brescia 1989. I. Faldi, Contributi al Balletta, in I. Faldi, Miscellanea di scritti viterbesi, a cura di A. Pampalone, Roma 2007, pp. 18-42; R. Innocenzi, Carbognano 2001. Lettera del principe Giulio Cesare Colonna (1583), con cui viene ratificata la concessione della chiesa di Sant’Eutizio ai padri della Vallicella. Roma, Archivio della congregazione dell’Oratorio di Roma [ACOR] A V 17. Informationes pro Ven. Congreg.ne S. Philippi Neri de Urbe. Diversorum. Cfr. Cistellini, cit., I, pp. 341 – 342. F. Strinati, Carbognano, una citta della filippina in Tuscia: la residenza agreste dei padri della Vallicella e la prima chiesa intitolata a san Filippo Neri in Annales Oratorii, Fascicoli 16, 2018, pp. 77 – 98. A. Pampalone, La vita di san Filippo Neri nei cicli figurativi, in A. Bianco [a cura di], Iconografia di un santo. Nuovi studi sull’immagine di san Filippo Neri, Roma 2017, p. 163. ASCC, Antico Regime, Consigli Comunali aa. 1621 -1625; 1625 -1628
ADCC, Serie visite pastorali, Visita Mengacci, 1860 – 1866, cc. 8r/v.