SAN CASSIANO

San Cassiano (hamlet of Brisighella, 204m above sea level) – 76 km – Refreshment N° 17

This is a centre of farming with a very active population that has recently expanded. San Cassiano owes its name to a martyred fourth century teacher from Imola. This was once the place of a hospital for pilgrims and the sick (1573). In 1776 the current church was built on the left bank of the river. In 1371 Villa San Cassiano had 36 hearths, in 1762 it had 182 inhabitants and in 1876 500 inhabitants. San Cassiano is within the Council area of Brisighella in the Province of Ravenna and is 25 kilometres from Faenza.

The Castle

The dwellings are dominated by the ruins of the castle of the same name which rose on small hill overlooking “il passo delle Pendici”(Pass of the Slopes), the narrowest point of the valley of the river Lamone.

In his “Commentaries on the Vale of the Amone” the historian Francesco Maria Saletti from Brisighella reports an ancient saying amongst the people of the Romagna “be careful not to pass/by the Slopes/if you do not want to remain/dead or prisoner”. This was because its tight natural defensive position amongst the mountains seemed so terrible as to represent a serious threat for the lives of anyone. Generations of oral tradition remember killings, terrible massacres and combat without end…

There is no certainty of the origins of the dreaded castle of San Cassiano. From documentation it appears that in 1292 this fortress was the property of Francesca, the daughter of Ugolino degli Fantoli. The historical family of the degli Fantoli is remembered in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in which the Poet refers to celebrated personage of Ugolino dè Fantolini from this Florentine house (in “Purgatory” XIVth canto, 41-42) who seems to have held landed properties in the Val D’Amone, specifically near Torre dei Cavina (near the locale of Zattaglia in the council area of Brisighella).

Then the castle of San Cassiano was inherited by Alessandro, Count of Romena of the family Guidi di Modigliana. In the beginning of the fourteenth century it fell to Maghinardo Pagani da Susisana who took it by storm and destroyed it after a siege of five days and a horrifying massacre. In 1321 Francesco Manfredi, a famous member of this house, rebuilt it as his bailiwick.

It must be remembered that in the Napoleonic era San Cassiano was raised to the status of a third class council which included a number of nearby locales (Sant’Eufemia, Boresimo, Valpiana, Pistrino, Casale, Cavina, Calamello in Gorgognano, Valdifusa) with a total population of 1,350.

The Church

The first mention of this location as “San Cassiano Vallis Alamonis” is in a document from 1052. Another document from 1073 shows that the parish church existed on the right bank of the river Lamone at “Ca di Martino” amongst the small farms of “Caminata” and “Sganghera”. Not long after this is replaced by the parish of San Cassiano in “Petrosa or Pidriolo”.

In his apostolic visit of 1573 Monsignor Ascanio Marchesini writes that “the church still did not have the title of high priest and that its rector was a certain Cassiano da Cavina, a parish priest of about forty years”. Marchesini also stresses that the church had a sole altar with a “beautiful icon”. Furthermore, we know from his report that at San Cassiano there was even a “Hospital San Cassiani” or “Hospitale Santa Maria”, but where the precise location of this place is unknown.

Cardinal Anglico’s census of 1371 shows that “Villa San Cassiano” counted 36 six families (about 286 people). By 1432 the population had already grown considerably. In 1471 the castellan had a blue and white standard with two gold oxen rampant. Of great historical relevance remains the memory of the great struggle between the valley’s inhabitants and the troops of Emperor Charles V who went on to sack Rome in 1527. In fact, in that year the terrifying Spanish troops under imperial command, broken and corrupted by every sort of compromise and who ranged the territory sowing pain and death wherever they went were repulsed at the Passo delle Pendici and in order to reach Rome where they were forced to take the other route through the Valley of the river Ronco.

For centuries the inhabitants of San Cassiano, as proof of their courage, in cases of dispute repeated the saying “Beware that the lanzechenecchi (as the imperial troops were called) did not frighten us…” as though to underscore their audacity and strength, “so you do not frighten us, in fact…”. Over the years the castle of San Cassiano did not fall to total ruin and for many years its walls remained as a symbol of strength and greatness. In 1824 the Lega family, that was tied to the area for centuries, still owned a part of the fortress.

Now all that remains are the ruins of a tower and even then these remains were irreparably damaged in the course of the Second World War (1939 – 1945). Therefore little or nothing remains of its ancient glory.

Piero Malpezzi