Brisighella – 88km – Rest stop number 20
This is the most characteristic town of the Valley of the Lamone River. It is protected by three chalky outcrops that rise majestically from a large cliff that form a striking background for the countryside below. On the first hill called the “Monticine” (small mountain), that was once called “Calvary” for it skull like shape these is an 18th century Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna that was much venerated by the people of Brisighella and Romagna. The image of the Virgin is represented by a work of ceramic, maybe from Imola or Faenza dating back to 1626. The second hill is dominated by a small watch tower built by the Manfredi family in the 14th century and by the imposing nearby tower erected by the Republic of Venice that dominated the valley between 1503 and 1509. The third hill has a tower dating back to 1805 where there was once a great tower of large chalk blocks built by Maghinardo Pagani da Susanina.
Villa of the Spada
The villa was built and the expanded on the remains of an ancient fortification by Paolo Spada (1541 – 1643). The Spada family was one of the oldest and historical families of the Romagna that numbered important personages that brought glory, especially to Brisighella. Among these we remember Paolo, the Papal Treasurer, an uncultured man but in possession of the ability to administer property to the point of becoming the richest man, not only of Brisighella, but of all the Romagna. The Spada family was the pride of Brisighella and has always been remembered for its greatness and generosity, especially in regards to the poor.
The Cistercian Monastery of Saint Bernard.
Directly opposite the ancient entrance of Villa Spada can be seen the complex of the ex-hospital of Saint Bernard of Brisighella. The monks chose a complex arrangement, outside the walls of Brisighella, rich with greenery and water, adapted above all “to silence and to prayer”. The Cistercian monks remained there until 1789 (the convent having been upgraded to an abbey) when they were removed by the revolutionary winds from France and the people of Brisighella decided that the place be transformed into a hospital for the benefit of the population. And so it remained until the 1960s when the hospital was suppressed by sanitary reforms of the time. The complex is now used as a medical clinic under the direction of the medical authorities of Faenza.
Years ago the during excavations undertaken by the Office responsible for Archeology of Ravenna at the “Grotta of the Tanaccia” just beyond the Monticino of Brisighella, were found the remains of an ancient civilization from the period between the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. With all probability the inhabitants of this cave community were Liguri. Subsequently, it was discovered that the area surrounding Brisighella was invaded by Celtic (Gaul) that left a numerous reminders of their presence, especially in place names. Brisighella and is valley were then conquered by the Romans.
It is well known that the entire valley is traversed by a road little more than a mule track that linked the Romagna with Tuscany since time immemorial. There still exist many places that testify to this. Starting from Faenza towards Florence we encounter place names that provide evidence of the presence of Rome in the area. The names indicating “Quartolo” (the 4th, “quarto”, mile), Rio Quinto (the 5th, “quinto”, mile), the Pieve in Ottavo (the 8th, “ottavo”, mile), Undecimo (the 11th, “undicesimo” mile) and so forth, are not other than confirmations of this. Certain place names are the remains of Roman outposts in the Valley of the Lamone, such as “Baccagnano” that derives from the name of the family that owned a farm there (fundus Baccani), Fognano (fundus funii-fundus funianus), etc. This is further confirmed by the discovery near Brisighella of Roman tombs at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries at a place called podere “Celletta” that is now a park dedicated to Giuseppe Ugonia. It was then thought that this small necropolis that a small group of roman families that excavated chalk could have established stable dwellings in a small, insignificant place that would then take the name of Brisighella.
The first mention of the name “Brassichella” goes back to 1178, according to many historians it had been founded by the Counts of Belmonte delle Camminate. The historian Francesco Lanzoni (1862 – 1929) emphasized that this information is unreliable and not based on documentation. Nor can we accept today the hypothesis of the historian Antonio Metelli who dates the origin of Brisighella to 1192, when the castle at Baccagnano near the right bank of the Lamone Rover was destroyed by the people of Faenza.
Recent research certainly dates the origin of the township of Brisighella to the Roman period and maybe to the pre-Roman period. This chalk rich land seems to have been initially inhabited by a small roman colony, especially of diggers of chalk, a pliable material that was easily worked and that could have been put to a variety of uses.
The Collegiate Church of the Archangel Michael
The current Collegiate Church located in the centre of Piazza Carducci was built in the middle 17th century outside the city walls and was designed by the Florentine architect Gherardo Silvani. The old parish church (which became a college under a 1601 decree by Pope Clement VIII) was located in the place where there now rises the 18th century Church of the “Suffraggio”.
There is no information of the layout of the old church and maybe due to population growth, or possibly deteriorating condition of the temple, plans for a new church were drawn up. For reasons unknown the original plans were modified, in fact, the original very high dome of the church suddenly collapsed. In addition, in the night between April 4 and 5 1871 the dome was again damaged by a strong earth tremor and the two elegant bell towers that made the façade more graceful were badly cracked and had to be demolished. It was then decided, especially due to lack of funds, to undertake a more economic project as can be seen in the present façade. The restoration of the much reduced cupola was undertaken by the architect Pietro Tomba from Faenza.
The interior of the church is in the form of a Greek cross and contains eight altars. Of particular interest is the altar of Our Lady of the Graces made of multicoloured canary glass. Designed by Luigi Parini, it was constructed by the building workers of Brisighella led by Luigi Galassini. The altar contains a rectangular tempera painting that represents a Madonna with arrows in her hand with Saint Domenic at her feet wearing a dalmatic and two groups of angels at the sides. Other prestigious works in the college include the baptismal font with the crest of the Malatesta family and two 18th century bronze angels.
The College of Saint Michael, the Church of the Observation and the Churches of the Holy Cross, Saint Francis and of the Suffraggio are all well worthy of a detailed visit for the artistic works that they protect.
Finally, in Piazza Marconi adjoining the J.A.T. is the museum named after the Faenza born, but adopted by Brisighella lithographer Giuseppe Ugonia (1881 – 1944) whose works are on display in the world’s great museums such as Washington, London, Tokyo, Saint Petersburg, Ottawa, Dresden and in also in many Italian art collections in the Uffizi in Florence, as well as Rome, Ravenna, Faenza, Bologna, Siena and numerous private collections.
A House – The History of Man
Situated at the end of the “Via degli Asini” (“The Donkey Road”) is CASA BOSCHI, an ancient medieval tower, where archaeology, art, architecture and design intermix giving life to a true path that takes us on an ideal voyage from prehistory to present times. The structure is laid out on seven floors in a characteristic vertical system that is typical of building in fortified villages.
Our ideal voyage in History begins from the lowest and oldest level of the house. From the gallery in the entrance where there are exhibited archeological pieces and a collection of medieval ceramics that have always decorated the house we come to a large grotto excavated in the chalk. In this open space more than ten metres high can be seen a tank for the collection of spring water, five smaller niches on two levels, an archaic seat and the imprint of a fireplace. We know that this same place was used until modern times as the ice chest of the town (“La Conserva”, the “Store”). The grotto was filled with ice in the winter. This ice was brought inside in baskets and the price of the ice varied according to its purity. The ice was conserved until the following season.
The house proceeds to the upper levels where there can be seen picturesque details of the countryside. We then reach the exterior of the building and the terraced gardens which end at the chalk cliff at the base of the clock. In the garden we can see an unusual detail. Supported by dry stone walls is a vertical layer of chalk within the formation of the chain of the Appennines where long lance like crystals have formed along the direction of the marine algae filaments.
The house was saved from ruin in 1862 when a collapse threatened to destroy it forever and was make habitable in strict conformity to the original forms and all the interventions made by man over the many long years. In its entirety the house offers precise evidence for the reconstruction the past and thus allowing us to view various periods of History.
Pier Franco Boschi