#04 Parish Church of St. Donatus

The Church

The church of St. Donatus is first mentioned in a document dated 1332. It became parish church in the course of the XIV century, replacing the one dedicated to St. John the Baptist, exposed to the raids and the dangers of wars as well as the church of St: Mary Magdalene, located outside the walls of Demonte.

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Important restoration works were made between 1665 and 1671: the municipality built the wooden pulpit and the facade. The building was renovated in baroque style according to the project of F.Bottero and at the suggestion of Giovenale Boetto; the Rosary chapel was embellished with stuccoes and frescoes by Giuseppe Nuvolone, Giovanni Claret painted the fresco of the “Battle of Lepanto”.

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In XVIII century the church underwent various interventions: such as the construction of the Sacristy and the black marble sink (1713). In 1739, the “Stations of the Cross” were added; in 1750, a fourth aisle was built and between 1776 and 1789 the high altar, its rail and a marble baptistery, were added, all by the marble carver Scala, from Lugano but living in Cuneo.

In 1864, due to the need of radical repairs of the roof, the church was entirely renovated reducing the aisles from 4 to 3. The facade was rebuilt, the portal shifted to the centre, the presbytery was enlarged and the high altar was moved. The works lasted 25 years.

In 1906, the roof was demolished and rebuilt three meters higher, better proportioned to the width and the height of the central nave. The vault was adorned with stucco rosettes and, in 1907, the painter Bartolomeo Giorgis frescoed the vault, the walls of the presbytery and the wall over the organ loft (1915).

The XIX century façade is in rough brick masonry. It’s crowned by two groups of concrete statues representing the Theological Virtues with St. Donatus, St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene, to whom the three Demonte churches were dedicated.

The church opens on a wide hall where two fine stoups (XVII century) can be seen.

The visit Left side

Before the first chapel on the left (the Baptistery), in a niche protected by a sheet of glass, there is a wooden crucifix (XV century) of exquisite workmanship.

The Baptistery has a marble bath made by marble carver Scala (1789) and a group of stucco statues ( “Baptism of Jesus” – XIX century).

In the next chapel, there is the altar of St. Eligius so called in 1762 because the Society of St. Eligius (Bishop, 588/660 AD) used to meet here. He was the patron saint of blacksmiths, horse shoers and mule drivers. The altarpiece (author unknown – 1876?) represents “Jesus on the cross contemplated by St. Constantius and by the Bishop St. Eligius”.

Further on one finds the altar of the Intercession so called because from 1636, it was entrusted to the cares of the Company of the Intercession. The current altar (1911) was built by the stucco worker Piazzalunga, while Bartolomeo Giorgis (1912) decorated it. The painting (by an unknown artist – second half of XVIII century), represents the “Souls of Purgatory rescued by an Angel among St. Paul,St. Sebastian, and St. Michael at the foot of the Virgin Mary who pleads the Trinity”.

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Altar of St. Stephen and St. Magnus. In 1750, after being renovated, the altar was dedicated to St. Stephen and St. Magnus. It was linked to the Society of Farmers. The painting of the “Deposition of Jesus” in Mary’s arms between St. Magnus and St. Isidore the Farm Labourer (first half of the XVIII century) is by an unknown author.
In two side niches, there are two statues of St. Magnus, one in armour and the other one in civilian Roman clothes.

Altar of St. Anne
, patron saint of the Bolleris family, whose coat of arms is visible in the lower part of the altar. The painting (second half of the XVII century) is by an unknown author and represents “The Virgin Mary with the Child, St. Anne, St Louis of Toulouse and St. Peter”.

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Chapel of St. Joseph. It was created in 1750 when the fourth nave was built.
The altarpiece with “St Joseph dying” is by the local painter Carlo Andrea Baracco (1750).
It’s surrounded by seven smaller paintings representing “Scenes from the life of St. Joseph”. On the side wall there’s a painting depicting “The Holy Family of Nazaret”.

The wooden statue of St. Donatus, attributed to S.M Clemente (1762) is located next to the presbytery.

The high altar was made by the marble carver Scala (1776). Over the altar hangs a crucifix (1913) by the sculptor Guacci from Lecce.

The altarpiece of St. Donatus was painted by F.Alisiardi from Rivoli (1839). It represents the “Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Donatus”, to whom the ancient parishes in the town were dedicated. On both sides two paintings: “The “Deposition from the Cross” and the “Adoration of the Shepherds”.

Presbytery walls. Here Bartolomeo Giorgis painted frescoes representing the “Apparition of the Sacred Heart to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque” and “Our Lady of Lourdes” (1912), while the two paintings underneath, by an unknown author, represent “The Last Supper and “The Nativity” (XVII century).

The sacristy vestments, altar cloths and holy vessels are displayed in the cases of the large wooden wardrobe. In the floor there is a marble slab marking the tombs of clergymen. (1723).

Right side

The statue of “Our Lady of Good Counsel surrounded by angels” – on the side of the Presbytery – is by the sculptor Roasio (1853).

Chapel of the Holy Rosary
The current marble altar (1803) comes from the Chapel of St. Charles in the fortress of the Virgin of the Consolation. The small paintings representing the Mysteries of the Rosary are by G.A. Aprile (1761). The vault frescoes, framed in Baroque stuccoes, representing “Scenes of life of the Virgin Mary” were painted by Nuvolone (1671). The wooden statue of “The Virgin of the Rosary” (1686) was sculpted by G.Vallo.

Right side. G. Claret (1665, circa). Detail of the battle of Lepanto

Altar of St. Louis (mid XVIII century)
The altarpiece (beginning of the XIX century) depicts “The Lady of Good Counsel with St: John,St. Peter,St. Paul and St. Anthony the Great. The wooden structure comes from the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene (chapel of St. Dalmatius).

Altar of St. Lucy
The marble altar dates back to 1829, the altarpiece depicting the “Virgin Mary with the child, St. Lucy, St Dalmatius, St. Bartholomew, St. Andrew” was painted by A. Pastor from Cuneo in 1831.

The altar of the Crucifix
The marble table and altarpiece are by G. Monti from Valdieri (1876), while the wall facings and the predella are by the marble carver Manzo from Mondovì (1907). Various statues are placed in the niche (“ The Immaculate Conception”, “The Sacred Heart”, “St. Louis”).

The organ loft and the organ
The backdrop of the organ loft, depicting the “Paradise with musician angels, St. Cecilia and King David” was painted by Bartolomeo Giorgis in 1915. The organ was installed by the firm Vittino-Vegezzi from Centallo.

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The Stations of the Cross
On the pillars of the central nave are hung paintings depicting the “Stations of the Cross” (1739) by P.A. Botta from Cuneo.

The vault
The vault frescoes were painted by Bartolomeo Giorgis in 1907. They represent “The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the triumph of St. Donatus and the Heart of Jesus with St. Peter,St. Paul, St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene”. Over the nave windows, the medallions recall the Ten Commandments.

Some pews still bear the coat of arms of the Bolleris, Borellis and Berengers carved in the back rest.

Bibliography

– “Relazione storico-tecnica preliminare al restauro del Palazzo Borelli”, 1996 del Politecnico di Torino, Professoressa Dottor Arch. Claudia Bonardi
– “Parrocchia S.Donato di Demonte” Ed. Diocesi di Cuneo, 2008
– Studio Architetti Associati Torino – “Palazzo e Parco Borelli, progetto di restauro e valorizzazione”, 2010, Arch. Carla Bartolozzi,
– “Demonte ieri e oggi”, Primalpe Edizioni, 1983
– Archivio storico della Confraternita di San Giovanni Decollato di Demonte