Carbognano, Church of Santa Maria della Concezione
The church of Santa Maria della Concezione was built by Giulia Farnese in 1522 as can be read from the inscription carved on the lintel above the portal on the facade: “ANNO DOMINI MDXXII TEMPORE ILLUSTRISSIMAE DOMINAE JULIAE DE FARNESIO”. The architectural structure was conceived by adapting two overlapping churches: the persistent one of Santa Maria, smaller than the present one, as evidenced by the Gothic mullioned arches on the side of the sacristy, and the one below, no longer existing, dedicated to St. Vincent, the ancient patron saint of the village. The village of Carbognano in the Renaissance period became the residence of some exponents of the greatest families of those times (Orsini, Farnese, Della Rovere), and later still of other important families (Colonna, Barberini, Sciarra). Under the direction of these high lineages, the structure conceived at the beginning of the 1500s never underwent major changes, remaining substantially the same. The presence of some of the major confraternities of the village inside the church, with their own chapel (of the SS. Misericordia, of the Disciplinati or of the Frusta, of San Vincenzo), shows the enormous following that the church had in the context of the religious activism of the Cimino community. The building of the church of San Filippo Neri first (1628), then that of Sant’Anna (XVII century), and finally of the new church of San Pietro then Collegiate (beginning of the XIX century), led in time to a gradual abandonment of the building, gradually more and more frequented and used exclusively as a place for burials. Unfortunately already in the last decades of the XIX century the church presented structural problems after which it was no longer used as a place of worship. In 1955 the then parish priest Don Pietro Totonelli, managed to save the area of the building with a recovery project after which the building was used first as a sports gymnasium and then as a shed for the means of the CRI. On that occasion, because of the danger of collapse, the grandstand, which had large structural cracks, was filled in with a masonry tuff arch. Since 2006, thanks to the intervention of the Municipality of Carbognano the building has been completely recovered. The premises of the former church of Santa Maria dell’Immacolata Concezione, of municipal relevance, have become since 2018 a multipurpose cultural center, allowing a 360 fruition, from carrying out educational activities, to cultural events in general such as book presentations, painting exhibitions and concerts. Since 2020, the former church also results as a branch office of the Civil Status for the celebration of weddings of the Municipality of Carbognano. Since several years, thanks to the restoration works, the spotlight has been turned on the beautiful frescoes of the church, by prominent authors of the sixteenth century Viterbo and beyond. Currently visible are the frescoes of the apse, where there is also an inscription with the date 1591; there are several scenes, among which the Annunciation, the Nativity with adoration of the shepherds, the Tiburtine Sibyl, who according to the legend foretold the Emperor Augustus the coming of Christ.
The church presents itself externally with a facade without plaster, with a simple square structure with a horizontal termination, decorated by the only central oculus placed above the portal in tavertino with the architrave decorated with a motif of ovules on which rests a simple lunette always made of travertine. In the lintel is engraved the inscription: “ANNO DOMINI MDXXII TEMPORE ILLUSTRISSIMAE DOMINAE JULIAE DE FARNESIO”. Above the roof on the right there is a small asymmetrical bell tower with a rectangular plan, today without bells. One of these bells was transferred to the church of S. Filippo (Oral communication of the parish priest Don Pietro Totonelli, 1999).
The interior of the church was built following the scheme of a single large nave with side niches of different shapes and arranged in an irregular manner probably because made at different times and obtained by digging the wall mass. The coverage must have been with a trussed roof. The masonry walls are full and act as a leading element of the composition and the whole is presented with a sober elegance and compact and closed appearance. Inside the church, the wide and airy side walls house several chapels decorated with frescoes, still visible in good part as evidence of the patronage of noble families and local brotherhoods, while the back wall houses a single large tribune. Today 12 main representations corresponding to as many chapels are preserved intact, plus a representation of St. Anthony of Padua and a series of fragments of frescoes that decorated the rest of the side walls. In the seventeenth century 12 of the 12 chapels still visible today were known and efficient, as can be deduced from the number of altars that appear in various pastoral visits, chapels that were constantly cared for in compliance with the rules decreed by the Church of Rome after the Council of Trent. Upon entering, one can observe only one chapel on the left side of the counter-façade wall. Here was the altar of Santa Maria della Neve, decorated with the image of the Virgin with Child between saints of the sixteenth century. Continuing, the left wall preserves seven chapels completely intact, and a still visible part of another chapel. In succession we will find: I Chapel-where was the altar St. Anthony decorated with a fresco dated 1568, depicting St. Anthony Abbot blessing and stories from the life of the saint, Second chapel, altar St. Joseph decorated with the image of a Crucifixion with St. Anne, St. John and St. Anthony Abbot, dating from the middle of the sixteenth century. Third chapel, Lamentation of the dead Christ datable to the sixteenth century. Fourth chapel, altar of St. Michael Archangel where St. Michael Archangel is represented with the psychostasis of the beginning of the 17th century. Fifth chapel, altar of the Holy Crucifix, decorated with the Crucifixion with St. John the Evangelist and St. Lucy. In this chapel moved to the seventeenth century the brotherhood of the Whip or disciplined. Sixth chapel, – it housed the altar of sant’Egidio of the confraternity of the Disciplinati until the XVII century.here is represented the Virgin with Child between sant’Antonio Abate and sant’Egidio datable to the beginnings of the XVI century, referable to the Umbrian Roman ways of the beginnings of the XVI century. Between the sixth and the seventh chapel, it had to be the S. Liberato altar, of which remains only the fake painted architecture that framed the altar realized to cover the near chapel. Seventh and last chapel, housed the altar of St. Jerome decorated with the complex fresco with the Virgin and Child between a host of angels and St. Jerome between St. Anthony Abbot and St. John. The altar was under the care of the gerosomelitani fathers of the vallicella of Rome. Closes the wall to Cornu Evangeli, the isolated figure of St. Anthony of Padua datable to the beginning of the sixteenth century. In the apsidal wall, remains on the sides of the apse barely legible trace of the scenography composed of a decoration of false columns that framed illusionistically the perspective background of the building. At the center of the wall the great tribune, blocked by a modern masonry arch (1955) inside of which there are still the representations of the life of the Virgin Mary divided into compartments in the apse wall, with the representations of the Immaculate Conception in the center and at the sides respectively the Annunciation on the left and the Nativity on the right. The third scene of the Nativity bears the date 1591. In the apsidal cap inside the ovals there are the scenes of the Ascent to Heaven of the Virgin in the center, at the sides those of the sibyls, of which it is still readable the scroll at the feet of the left representation referred to the Tiburtine Sibyl. Near the high altar there was the chapel of the Immaculate Conception, wanted by Giulia Farnese called “the Beautiful” particularly fond of this church, so much to require expressly in his will the construction. In the testament there is mention of the “chapel of the Conception of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin”, inside which were to be placed “…an image of the Virgin Mary Genetrix painted on gold plates…a thurible and a silver cross, a crucifix and two golden angels…”. The iuspatronato of the chapel of the Immaculate Conception passed for direct line to the daughter Laura married with Nicolò della Rovere, to the son Giulio della Rovere, to the sister Elena, to Lavinia della Rovere Orsini, in order then to continue with Francesco Colonna and all the descendants until arriving to the Colonna Sciarra Barberini that for last in the XIX century held the property of the Castle of Carbognano. On the right wall only three chapels are preserved intact (the I, the II and the V). The first chapel probably housed the altar of S. Giovanni Decollato, mentioned several times in the pastoral visits but never described. Here is depicted the Madonna della Quercia between San Sebastiano and San Rocco dating back to the 16th century. Next is the Chapel with the scene of the Resurrection of Christ, a fresco dated 1570. Near this chapel there was the altar of the Resurrection managed from the beginning of the 17th century by the confraternity of the Misericordia. Of the third chapel, only the perimeter of the area that contained the general architecture and the fragment with the decoration in spirals that framed the torn fresco with Saint Leonard and the Virgin and Child, today preserved in the church of Saint Eutizio, placed there in the ’60s after the works of transformation of the building into a gymnasium, remain visible. Before the last chapel on the right, an opening leads us to the rooms underneath realized in an unspecified time as sacristy and rectory, rooms today transformed for services and for the support, recreational and cultural activities promoted by the Municipality. The same opening is obtained in a buffered arch. The last chapel was dedicated to Saint Vincent Ferrer. Here we find a painting of the Virgin and Child between Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Sebastian, a work datable to the 16th century. Above the chapel there is a fresco of the 16th century with God on the throne between angels of the Passion and saints, clearly made in a later period given the wall support of the fresco made in part above the niche below. Closing the right wall at Cornu Epistole are some small fragments of a fresco with a fake painted parasta that stood to the left of the altar of St. Vincent, inside of which can be glimpsed the eyes and the drapery of the saint who was to decorate the niche.
Selvaggini Alessandro, Chiesa collegiata di S. Angelo in Viterbo, Viterbo 1963.
Pinzi Cesare, Guida dei principali monumenti di Viterbo, Roma 1889.