Wednesday 18 October 2017

Architectural Restoration

The Church of Fontanella, now fully restored, has undergone a good many drastic changes since it was built almost one thousand years ago. Historians and present day students of medieval art agree that the typical convent proto-Romanic church plan of the early Middle Ages probably contains the original nucleus of Fontanella, with the choir, the presbytery (the space before the high altar, reserved for the clergy), and a small nave, which originally must have been the center of the actual transept. This nucleus must date from about the year 1080, the year of the founding of the Abbey. The semicircular apse which terminates at the nave of the temple lends grace and harmony to the whole structure. The Church was enlarged probably in 1170 with the construction of the bell tower, the nave and the facade. The builders used gray limestone blocks for this construction, which differed in colour from the yellowish limestone used for the apse, although both types of stone had comes from the same quarry at Mapello. If one examine the building plans of the Church, one can see clearly how little attention the 12th century builders paid to regularity of line and to geometric design. The whole edifice is, in effect, completely unsymmetrical. It presents irregularities and faulty lines in many places in the nave and in the transept, and, to a lesser extent, in the presbytery and the choir. The builders did their best to mask their errors of prospective by masking them in semi-darkness and by using different designs for the columns and the architectural style of their capitals. Outside the church, in the church-yard (the paved area in front of the church) there is a large stone ark, or sarcophagus of gray stone, topped by a heavy lid. Although frequently described as roman in origin, the ark is in reality of a much later date, nearer to gothic times. The ark was definitely not the burial place of the antipope Vittore IV, as was once popularly supposed; it is much more likely that the huge stone coffin was the last resting place of the saintly Teiperga, before her remains were removed from the church and buried outside. Saint Egidio continues, even after a thousand years of history, to represent the ideal of monastic life as conceive by the Cluny order.

BIBL. U. ZANETTI, Il monastero di Sant’Egidio a Fontanella di Sotto il Monte, Ed. Bergamo, Bergamo 1993, pp. 124-136.