The gardens lie on the Quaternary hill where, from about 1250, stood the Angevin castle where the Bolleris lived from 1377. Its only feature surviving is a retaining wall, on the north-eastern slope. In 1588, after the castle was destroyed by the Savoyards, the site was used as a cemetery while the ancient chapel of Our Lady was restored and dedicated to St. Bernard (L).
From 1828 to 1860, Count Borelli rebuilt the tower (N) – in medieval style – on the site of the ancient castle. He had the rubble cleared and a garden on four levels or terraces was created, with fountains and shady corners, a greenhouse, and various paths leading to the terrace on the top of the hill. Once here was the upper esplanade of the castle. The garden was meant to be a place of peace, leisure and meditation.
It was closed and exclusive: at the beginning it was possible to enter it only through the Galleria Carlo Alberto (F) and from the entrance next to the parish church (entrances B and C), both reserved to the Borelli family.
Later, the township inherited it and built the double staircase in Piazza Statuto (entrance A), open to the public, demolishing an ancient donjon. The elevator recently installed (in Piazza Renzo Spada allows an easy access to the garden.
Now the garden houses cultural events, and during the summer it offers a cool and pleasant place for tourists and the local population.
It a good example of nineteenth century park, and here grow many varieties of trees and shrubs from all over the world.
Map of the assets left to Demonte township by Count Borelli
(A, B, C) Entrances to the Garden
(D) Entrance to the Garden (lift available)
(E) Borelli Mansion
(F) Galleria Carlo Alberto
(G) Small Mansion
(H) Church of the Holy Cross
(L) St. Bernard chapel
(M) The Garden
(N) The Tower
The Garden: St. Bernard chapel and Borelli family’s burial place
The chapel stands on the second terrace of the garden. Since 1300 it was the chapel of the castle and was dedicated to Our Lady. After the castle was destroyed in 1588, the area was used as a cemetery, the chapel was restored and dedicated to St. Bernard and to Our Lady of the Consolation. The nearby graveyard was situated to the west of the parish church of St. Donatus.
However, its presence created hygienic problems to the built-up area below. After the site was acquired by Count Borelli in 1828, a new place was found and in 1834 the present cemetery was built, at the foot of the hill on which once the ancient fortress stood.
The ancient chapel of St. Bernard, once the church of the castle and of the cemetery, was probably damaged several times. It was renovated by Count Borelli in neo-Gothic style during the first half of the XIX century and a memorial chapel for family use was attached to it.
If one compares it to the map in the Theatrum Sabaudiae (G.Boetto, 1666), one can see that the apse no longer exists.
In the overall renovation of the garden site commissioned by Borelli, the chapel took on today’s shape and appearance. The exterior is decorated with patterns in neo-Gothic style, surely dating to the XIX century.
Today the little church is in a remarkable state of deterioration. It is a priority to restore not only the frescoes and decorations on the eastern, southern and western sides, but also to repair the roof, to avoid rainwater leaking in and causing damages to the paintings in the interior. Both the front and the rear show traces of Gothic style patterns, in fake architectural technique.
Inside, on the apse wall, a scene from the life of St. Bernard is sketched in tempera.
From the church it is possible to enter directly the Borelli family burial place with white marble sarcophagi. The family memorial chapel is rectangular, with a barrel vault. Here too, the walls are painted in alternate black and white bands, a clear reference to the Romanesque style of Pisa.
The ice-house is an interesting testimony of how of the Lords of Demonte used to live. In winter. the snow was collected and stored in layers separated by straw. In the hot summer, the ice thus formed was cut into blocks. The ice-house is hypogeal and has the shape of an overturned dome.
Today the ice-house has been fully restored. It is possible to see it through a trap door in the stone house with a flagstone roof that stands on top of it. The township has taken steps in order to renovate it not to a practical end but, at least, for its historical and cultural interest.
It has five large windows to best capture the sun rays during the winter.
It is a rectangular building of 15 x 4 metres, in masonry and glass; it too was recently restored.
It stands on a square basis, probably belonging to a pre-existing tower of the XII century. Here certainly was the esplanade of the ancient Angevine castle.
It has an entrance stairway and some frescoes decorate the interior. Unfortunately it is not currently accessible because one of the floors has collapsed.
Various parts of the garden still require costly repairs. The town council is doing its utmost to find the necessary funds to restore the chapel of St. Bernard and the tower.
Along with the renovations already completed (the roof and the interior of the Borelli mansion and of the Galleria Carlo Alberto and the Small Mansion, of the ice-house and of the greenhouse), these repairs will offer its citizens and the many tourists and vacationers a picture of the historical and cultural past of Demonte as well as the beauty and the atmosphere typical of the shady gardens and parks of the XIX century.
– “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