Carbognano, The Monumental Staircase of “Conocchia”
The realization of the monumental spiral staircase, that still today remains imperious as a decoration of the municipal palace of Carbognano, was conceived within the whole project of the building, revealing itself still today as the diamond point of the whole construction.
The staircase, realized inside the clock tower, allowed to access from the actual square of the Commune to the upper rooms of the palace, the Domus Comunitatis, the Archive, as well as the clock itself.
This was the function that it should have had when it was conceived and realized, that of connection between the square and the palace, but in addition to this function it provided above all the right decoration to the newborn structure of the building, in all its magnificence.
The book of the Communal Councils and the book of the Incomes and Outgoings of the Camerlengo of the Community of Carbognano testify us, at the beginning of the XVII century, a whole series of expenses related to the construction of the palace and specifically, from 1606, the expenses related to the realization of the staircase.
On May 11 of that year the construction of the staircase had already been started: “Adi 11 de Maggio 1606. I have given to Mastro Philippo et Desiderio scarpellini for the merit of having put the steps of the lumacha scudi dodici et 50 dico…”. In addition to revealing the names of the stonemasons who had made and assembled the steps of the staircase, we are informed of the name with which they called the shape of the staircase: that of the “Snail”. given the similarity of the helical pattern that forms the shell of the snail. So for the first time the definition of the “Snail” was mentioned in relation to the factory.
Still in August the Camerlengo noted: “Adì 31 Agosto, Ho dato in doi pasti per il sig. Mario Villani che venne a Carbognano d’ordine del Viceprincipe per la causa della lumacha della fabbrica jiuly sessantacinque in tutto dico …”.
In the same year we find other 2 annotations regarding the payments made to the same
I gave to Mastro Filippo scarpellino of Viterbo scudi 4…”; “I gave to Mastro Filippo and Desiderio scarpellini for the merit of having put the steps of the snail scudi 12-50”.
Two years later (1608) the expenses for the journey from Rome to Carbognano of the architect, who is continuously mentioned from the beginning of the works of the palace, were recorded: “I gave to Biagio sent to Rome with the horse to take the architect…”. Even more significant is the other annotation: “I gave six meals for Gaspare Guerra architect coming from Rome and doi one meal for Mastro Filippo scarpellino and one for Scipione … come for the service of the community”.
The stonemason used for the construction of the staircase (Filippo Scalpellino from Viterbo) and the architect Gaspare Guerra from Rome are mentioned together for the service of the Community.
Still in May of the same year: “Adì 23 de Maggio 1608 Ho speso in sei pasti per Mastro Gaspare Guerra architetto venuto da Roma”.
The continuity of the presence of the architect Gaspare Guerra, with the six meals testified by the note, provide us with indications that can lead us to hypothesize the paternity of the planning phase of the staircase.
Before the month of June of the following year (1609), the present is still mentioned in relation to the works of the staircase in two distinct notes: “I have spent and given to the stonecutters of Viterbo who make the staircase of the snail for a good account”;
“I have spent and given to the scarpellini of Viterbo who make the scale of the snail for a good account”.
These annotations relative to the payments for the realization of the scala della Lumaca make us understand that the work was not yet finished. From this year on, the notes relative to the factory of the Snail disappear.
The monumental staircase, that still today is placed to decorate the entrance of the Communal palace in the tower of the clock, was realized therefore between 1606 and 1614, to work of stonecutters from Viterbo Filippo and Desiderio, on project, with a lot of probability of the architect Gaspare Guerra.
In 1614 the umpteenth annotation gives us definitively the testimony of the factory of the staircase realized at the same time in the bosom of the factory of the palace and making part of the same palace “I gave to Mastro Pietro Grosso to accommodate a gate of the door of the snail of the house of the community”. The Snail of the House of the Community leaves no more doubt. The staircase was made for the palace with its architectural connotation that followed the example of the great Mannerist works (the Vignola at Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola (1560) and the Mascherino at the Quirinale (1583/84), and came before the great Baroque works in Rome with Flaminio Ponzio at Santa Maria in Trastevere (1613), and Borromini at Palazzo Barberini (1634).
In the twentieth century the Snail staircase was decorated halfway up with a marble bust of Victor Emmanuel II.
On the whole, the staircase, while undergoing alterations and restorations over time, has maintained its architectural features well in evidence in the grandeur of its mass.
A portal at No. 23 in Piazza del Comune gives access to the beautiful staircase.
The staircase of the factory of the Snail is 15 meters high and consists of 71 steps of nenfro that develop along a vertical axis with a helical pattern following the concept of the worm screw. The staircase realized inside the clock tower allowed to access from the actual square of the Commune to the superior rooms of the palace, the Domus Comunitatis, the Archives, as well as the clock itself.
Halfway down we reach the floor of the current municipal offices: Secretariat, Protocol, Technical Office and the Mayor’s Office. On the right, inside a rectangular niche, is placed to decorate the staircase the marble bust of Vittorio Emanuele King of Italy (XX century). The path of the staircase continues up to the top floor where you reach the room where the Municipal Clock is located, an environment that in the past was necessary for its care.
Address: Piazza del Comune, 23.
E. ABBATE, Guide to the province of Rome – volumes I and II, edited by the Club Alpino Italiano, 1894.
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and Computerized Inventory. Thesis, Faculty of the University of Tuscia of
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S. BARGELLINI, The mountains of Cimino, Bergamo 1914.
R. Ceccarelli – O. Tartarini , Carbognano, yesterday, today and tomorrow. 1940.
E. GUIDONI, The book of the Cimini. Ancient images of panirami and urban environments. Sutri, 2002.
V. D’ARCANGELI, Carbognano in Tuscia Viterbese. Rome 1968.
R. Innocenti , Carbognano. Virterbo 2001.
F. MARTINELLI, Carbognano illustrated by Mr. Fioravante Martinelli. Rome, 1694.
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titular patron of the city and diocese of Mondovì, with notes on the beginnings of the church in Mondovì, 1885.
G. SILVESTRELLI, Cities and castles and lands of the Roman region. Rome, 1940.
Historical Archives of Carbognano, Ancient Regim Series: 2/2; 2/3; 2/4; 2/5; 2/6; 2/7; 2/8; Deliberative Acts
– Council Books. = ASCC, SAR, AD – LC
Historical Archives of Carbognano, Ancient Regime Series: 7b/2; 7b/3, Book of Entrances and Exits of the Camerlengo.
of the Camerlengo. = ASCC, SAR, LEUC