FAENZA

Faenza – Finish

Via Firenze We descend along the Via Faentina (which in this stretch is called Via Firenze) where today to the right we see Villa “Bentini” set in a large green park and many other buildings that have now replaced the market gardens that filled the land and supplied the city, especially on market days. Amongst the constructions we point out the nineteenth century villa Fregua to the left.

A little further, always to the left, we see a small well designed lone church, called the “chiesetta dei Bertoni” (Chapel of the Bertoni). This is an eighteenth century chapel at the gates of the city tied to an old patrician residence (Villa Benedetti built by the engineer A. Gallegati in 1870) that can be seen in the background. As we travel down the road we notice to the right the Chiesa e il Convento dell’Osservanza (15th century) which has been transformed into the council cemetery. Initially this place was the seat of the abbots of the Order of Santa Perpetua who were under the canonical jurisdiction of the Order of San Marco of Mantua that abandoned this place in the first half of the fifteenth century. In 1444 they were succeeded by the observant Franciscans who took this name because they wanted to observe the original regulations set up by the Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assisi. Even the Manfredi, the ruling lords of Faenza, loved and honoured this place. In 1501, Cesare Borgia, also known as “il Valentino” set up his base here as he waited for Faenza to fall as a result of his siege.

Due the building being renovated along neoclassical lines by the architect Pietro Tomba in 1800 nothing remains of the old church built by the Manfredi except for the apse and its graceful bell tower, while the hemicycle to its side is the work of the architect Galli.

While not having any particular artistic worth, ts interior gives us an idea of the neoclassical funereal art in Faenza with works by Giovan Battista Ballanti Graziani (18th Century) and his successor Collina Graziani (19th Century). The chapel to the right as we enter is of particular interest as it conserves precious decorations by the famous 18th and 19th century artists Antonio and Romolo Liverani.

Here ends Via Firenze and begins Viale Marconi.

Viale Marconi.

As we proceed along the boulevard we are near Porta Montanara, one of the eighteenth century Gates of Faenza that were destroyed during the Second World War. To the right our attention is drawn by a religious building, the Chiesa di San Sigismondo with its façade by Pietro Tomba the noted nineteenth century architect from Faenza. This an elegant building, especially in its interior due to the harmony of its lines and the picturesque decorations by Romolo Liverani (1809 – 187), an artist well known in his land and beyond as a landscape artists and creator of grand backgrounds for lyric opera. Even La Scala at Milan conserves some of his designs and backgrounds. Local tradition says that originally this church was a seat for the Knights Templar. Today it is privately owned and has been restored.

Porta montanara. And so we reach the piazza dedicated to Antonio Fratti. To the right we notice a high brick wall that is an extension of the city walls built by the Manfedi. This piazza was, and still is, the centre for an ancient ball game practiced by the people of Faenza for centuries. To the left begins the wide “Stradone” which was built in 1816 as a place for promenades by the gentry and people of Faenza. At the end of this boulevard we can see an attractive construction with a central niche and fountains at its sides. At the top of this construction is an epigraph in memory of its construction and its dedication. This works is another by the architect Pietro Tomba.

We make our entry into the city by what was once Porta Montanara (the Mountain Gate) that were part of the city walls and we proceed along an avenue that is today dedicated to the memory of Giacomo Matteotti (died 1824), the anti-fascist martyr.

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino.

To the right we encounter the church of Sant’Agostino that was once dedicated to John the Baptist. This was the residence of the monks of the Order of Saint Augustine that already the fourteenth century had a church and convent there that still leaves traces of its past in some gothic style relics.

Many architects had a hand in this building. From Cesare Scaletta (1666-1748) to Gian Battista Boschi (1702-177…) and we cannot exclude the involvement of Andrea Campidori (1691-1754). The great, massive bell tower that was destroyed by the retreating German troops during the Second World War was also of eighteenth century construction. This demolition caused the destruction of an important cycle of fifteenth century frescos, a fragment of which is today preserved in the council’s art gallery.

Nearby to the left we encounter the seventeenth century façade of the imposing Palazzo Ginnasi-Ghetti. On the same side also find the Church of San Bartolomeo (9th – 12th centuries) whose most important parts are the still original are the Romanesque period apse and bell tower. The façade and interior have been partially modified. There are still recently restored frescos which give a picturesque quality to the place of worship. Since the end of the First World War this church has been dedicated to the fallen of all wars.

Facing this church is Palazzo Gucci-Boschi with its façade designed by Achille Ubaldini within which are conserved sculptures by Antonio Trentanove (1745-1812) of Rimini. His are also some of the decorations to some of the statues and bas reliefs of the Teatro Comunale designed by Giuseppe Pistocchi )1744-1814) that is dedicated to the great tenor Angelo Masini. The theatre is situated in a small piazza that is today dedicated to Pietro Nenni, but to the people of Faenza the piazza is known as “piazzetta della Molinella”.

Piazza della legna.

We are now at the beginning of the city’s striking piazza, but first we encounter the piazza known as “della legna” (the “woodyard”) as the piazza was where the precious material was sold to feed the hearths for residents. To the left is the building known as “the post office”, inaugurated in the 1940s by Rachele Mussolini.

On the opposite wide is Palazza Zauli-Naldi which once belonged to the historic family of the Naldi da Vecciano. Although the family was originally from the locale of Vecciano near Brisighella, the palazzo belonged to the Faenza branch of the family. This celebrated family was famous for having given Dionisio and Vincenzo Naldi, two military leaders, to the Republic of Venice. The Naldi family merged with the Zauli family in the eighteenth century and they took up the surname.

The distinctive portico and façade are from the seventeenth century and later was the subject of restorations. Some other ancient remains can be found within one of the rooms at the corner of Via Torricelli. Here there was the church of the Holy Cross that no longer exists.

Voltone della Molinella. Access to Piazza Nenni is via the so-called “Voltone della Molinella” with its bizarre decorations undertaken in 1566 by Marco Minghetti who left other examples of this type of decorations not only in his birthplace, but also in the Vatican and Florence. To be noted is the seal of Pope Pius V (1566-1572).

The suggestive Piazza “del Popolo” (of the People) and is one of the most beautiful in Italy.

The Piazza is lined along the two long major sides by colonnades that give it a stage-like setting. Its current, intentionally eighteenth century appearance, reflects the image that had been devised for it in the seventeenth century. The colonnades partially hide two palazzo, the so-called “del Podestà” (“the Mayor’s”) to the right and the “del Comune” (“The Council”) to the left, which both show signs of their medieval origins. The Palazzo del Podestà reveals a thirteenth century form which unfortunately was largely restored at the beginning of the twentieth century and what is more, with the addition of battlements. The underlying vault conserves various Romanesque capitals.

The Palazzo del Capitano to the left was family of the Manfredi lords of Faenza, and is now administrative seat of the Council. The building reveals thirteenth century walls, part of the battlements and upstairs posses a renaissance period grand hall with a wooden ceiling and an elegant Tuscan style mullion window from the time of Carlo II Manfredi. This complex was the subject of a major transformation in the eighteenth century when it became the seat of the Papal Government in the area. Access to the upper floor is via an eighteenth century stair which reaches room decorated with frescos undertaken by the artists Bigari and Orlandi of Bologna in 1728.

This piazza is the venue for the many events of the highest level in the fields of art, culture, sport and folklore. This is where the “100km Firenze-Faenza del Passatore finishes.

In the corner to the right is the clock tower that was rebuilt in 1953 to replace the original tower that had been destroyed by the retreating Germans in 1944. It dates back to the seventeenth century and was designed by Paganelli, who also designed the nearby monumental fountain. The current construction is a copy of the original. Of particular note is an artistic iron balustrade which contains a seventeenth century statue of Madonna and Child by Scala that was restored after being damaged in 1944.

Piazza della Libertà. We now pass into the third pizza, the one named for “Liberty”, which is framed one side by  the Duomo with its characteristic nineteenth century steps, on another the monumental fountain by Dominican priest Domenico Paganelli (17th century) and on the third by the columned building called the “portico of lords, or goldsmiths” with its beautiful house for the Albonetti family by the architect Giulio Casanova of Bologna built at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. The building is an elegant example of eclectic design with parts made of terracotta and ceramics by the famous Minardi brothers of Faenza and two wrought iron balconies by Francesco Matteucci, who was a member of a noted family of eighteenth century blacksmiths.

The Monumental Fountain. The fountain and built of bronze and stone from Istria was designed by Domenico Paganelli, a Dominican priest and was inaugurated in 1621. It is a noteworthy example of baroque sculpture. Its figures of lions and dragons that allude to the coats of arms of Faenza and Pope Paolo V Borghese was designed by Domenico Castelli, called “il fontanino” (the small fountain”), while the metal was forged by Battisti Vitalli and Jacometti di Recanati. It seems that Paganelli’s collaborator may have been Father Virgilio Spada (1596-1662) who went on to become famous as the financial advisor to Bernini and Borromini in the realization of their celebrated roman monuments. He himself would become a famous architect.

Il Duomo.

The grand and uncompleted façade of the Duomo, dedicated to Saint Peter rises above the beautiful nineteenth century steps. Faenza’s original cathedral was outside the city medieval walls as indicates by its name “Sancta Maria foris portam”. This church was dedicated to the Madonna and in the eighteenth century passed onto the Benedictine Order when the church was transferred to its current location. However, the original primitive façade, which was proceeded by a small portico, faced east. Traces of the original cathedral, laid out in the form of a basilica with three naves, are still visible in the basement.

The current complex is due to the wealth of the Manfredi, Lords of Faenza. In 1474 the first stone was laid by the Bishop Federico, brother of Charles II and Galeotto Manfredi. The architectural structure of this sacred edifice was designed by the famed Florentine architect Giuliano da Maiano (1432-1490) who is also remembered for other important achievements in Florence and Siena. The great architect only partially followed Brunelleschi’s designs for the churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito in Florence in that although he followed the basic scheme for San Lorenzo he resolved the problem of the divisions between the central and secondary naves in a different manner. Not only does the Duomo have columns between the naves, but these alternate with pillars resulting in a giving the edifice a more compact effect than Brunelleschi’s original model. Giuliano also differed from the Florentine model by using a vaulted instead of a flat ceiling.

The complex political situation of the times resulted in a long period of construction for this building. For this reason Giuliano da Maiano died without having the satisfaction of seeing his work completed. The major contributor to finishing the work was his fellow Florentine Lapo di Pagno Portigiani who continued Giuliano’s work during the first decade of the sixteenth century. The building was not finished until 1515 and its consecration did not take place until the llatter part of the century in 1581.

The interior. The building is 80.1m long, 25.64m wide and rises to a height of 21m of the main roof and 26 at the peak of the cupola over the transept. The measure of the two lateral naves is 12.6m.

There is a vivid sense of peace, serenity and spiritual awakening on entry into the church. In the vault over the central altar appears a splendid polychromic medal with the coat of arms of the Manfredi in the style of Della Robbia. We also point out the two medals in the vaults to the side of the transept which comprise ceramic ornaments that represent other deeds by the Manfredi.

As we enter the nave to the right we see a beautiful holy water holder by the famous sculptor Pietro Barilotto of Faenza. In addition there is an important example of baroque funerary art in the monument dedicated to General Evangelista Masi (or possibly Massi) who died in 1664. The author of this monument is unknown.

Many chapels beautify the lateral section of cathedral. Some are of note, artistically and devotionally, such as the second chapel to the right with its sepulchral monument by Pietro Barilotto dedicated to the jurist G. B. de Bosi. The fifth chapel to the right a neoclassical altar by the architect Pietro Tomba with terracotta and plaster work G. B. Ballanti-Graziani at the beginning of his career. The most significant work of this chapel is the fourteenth century tomb of Saint Terence, the city’s protector. Despite the work of many authoritative academics of the arts the author of this work is still unknown and has been attributed to a number of artists including Agostino di Duccio and Pietro Lombardo.

Of relative importance is the tomb of Andrea Severoli, a Tuscan work of the fifteenth century, which has on the opposite wall another funerary monument dedicated to Africano Severoli which, due to its elegant lines and proportions, may be considered sculptural masterwork of Pietro Barilotto. We point out the chapel of San Savino to the left to the altar with its works by Marini and Fenzoni. Behind its altar is the urn of the saint sculpted by Benedetta da Maiano, brother of the church’s designer. This work was commissioned at the request of Giovanna Vestri di Cunio, widow of Astorgio II Manfredi and work was undertaken between 1474 and 1476.

Not far to the left of the chapel of San Savino is the chapel dedicated to the Madonna of the Graces, the principal protector of the city and the Diocese of Faenza. This magnificent chapel is rich with a number of works in marble. Its vault has a fresco by the Milani of Parma (who died in 1798). The chapel protects a fifteenth century image of the Madonna which is venerated not only by the people of Faenza, but also by the whole population of the Dioceses. Of note are the two great marble statues of the Saints Peter and Paul, which are believed to be by a follower of Giusti Le Court of the seventeenth century, as well as two marble angels. The latter statues should have decorated the central altar of the Duomo, but were located here.

The sixth nave to the left is dedicated to the great Saint Pier Damiano who died in Faenza in 1072. His remains were transported here in 1898 and enclosed in an urn by the sculptor Maioli. The walls were decorated with frescos celebrating the life of the saint undertaken by Tommaso Del Pozzo of Faenza (1862-1906). The chapel’s design was by Pritelli and the other works were by the carver Castellani Francesco. Also in this nave, in the eighth chapel to the left is a neo-classical altar with plaster work by Ballanti-Graziani. In this chapel is the marble tomb of Sant’Emiliano, another protector of Faenza, which came from a former church dedicated to the saint. The tomb contains only some parts of the original work, whereas others are in a museum in Paris. Its author may have been a follower of Agostino di Duccio.

In our excursion into the cathedral of Faenza we must look once more at the monumental central altar which is a seventeenth work of great worth. In the choir seats to the left and to the right are some artistic tablets (possibly part of a lost work) attributed to Guglielmo di Guido di Petruccio from the first half of the fifteenth century. The layout of the choir seats behind the altar is imposing and of particular note is the inlay work of the first two stalls of the heads of the saints Peter and Paul which are attributed to the carvers Tideo and Biagio da Bologna. Finally we point out the fourth chapel to the right with its altar piece which is one of the best works by Innocenzo da Imola (1494-1550).

Faenza’s Duomo represents one of the city’s most important works of art and deserves a long visit. 

Piero Malpezzi