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FOGNANO - 100 KM del Passatore | Firenze - Faenza


Fognano (hamlet of Brisighella, 130m above sea level) – 85 km – Refreshment N° 19

 According to various studies, particularly by Antonio Quarneti, the place name probably refers to the name a lord named Fannius who owned the land in ancient times. In 1093 the place was recorded as “fundus” nearly two centuries later (1284) it was known as “Curtis”. Further into the second millennium it became “castello” that was seized by Maghinardo Pagani di Susisana sin 1292.

The “Rationes Decimarum” of 1291 records the church of San Pietro was a dependency of Pieve in Ottavo. This ecclesiastical disposition led to a long and complex dispute that would only be resolved centuries later when Fognano and its church gave rise to a vicarage of parishes totally independent from Pieve del Tho. In his description of the territory Cardinal Anglico says Fognano formed a single “villa” with 77 hearths (about 126 inhabitants).

It must be remembered that in the Napoleonic era the Valley of the river Lamone was divided into seven small council districts  amongst which was also Fognano, considered a council of the third class of the Department of Rubiconde with a population of 1,554 that included the hamlets of Ghiozzano, Undecimo, Poggiale, Zerfognano, Santo Stefano, San Michele, Quarneto and Vespignano.

For many years, especially between the end of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, Fognano was the centre of a long dispute. It wanted to break away from Brisighella to become an autonomous council. Today these anachronistic disputes are long gone, however, the people of Fognano used many and varied initiatives to affirm their rights. The people of Brisighella laughed at them repeating the verse “when the oak grows lemons then Fognano will have its council”.

One day the inhabitants of Fognano set up a big wagon drawn by strong oxen and placed on it a large oak tree with hundreds of lemons on its branches. The people of Brisighella, incredulous at the sight, had no choice but to take the blow.

The church of San Pietro in Fognano

In the sacristy of the church there is still a stone with the date of 1464 containing an inscription that reminds us that it was composed of two naves with two vaults, one big and one small. In addition, the inscription records that the church had been built as a public offering in sign of thanks for having avoided the plague of the fifteenth century. In 1650 it was decreed a prelacy by Cardinal Carlo Rossetti, Bishop of Faenza. Monsignor Marchesini, Apostolic Visitor of Faenza informs us that in 1573 that the church had seven altars and that it had always been devoted to the Apostle Peter.

Times passed and the church became ever more neglected, also due to its unhappy location. The parish had to wait until 1814 when don Giacomo Ciani (1770 – 1843) who was born in the nearby hamlet of Rontano, became its high priest. His first thought was to begin construction of a new church. In 1816 Pietro Tomba (1774 – 1846), an architect from Faenza, was given charge of the project and in the brief space of two years it was constructed, consecrated and opened for worship.

The church consists of three naves firmed in a latin cross and measures twenty five meters by twelve meters. The central altar is composed of precious marbles with an artistic tabernacle created by the roman artist Augusto Ranucci in 1865. Over this altar is a splendid work of art by the painter Gasparre Mattioli of Faenza which was completed in 1853 and represents Christ handing the keys to Saint Peter on the banks of the river Lamone. In the background to this painting are the castle and tower of Brisighella.

Recently in the presbytery a second altar was built facing towards the public as requested my modern liturgy. Said altar is decorated by a masterful work of ceramics by the artistic studio Bartoli-Cornacchia of Brisighella. Of particular note to the right of the church as we enter is the altar of polychromic glass dedicated to Saint Peter in Vincoli with a painting by Mattioli. A second altar is dedicated to the Virgin of the Graces, venerated by the people of Fognano and a third is dedicated to the Immaculate Madonna.

To the left as we enter is a ceramic baptismal font by the noted artist Carlo Zauli of Faenza above which is a large painting that represents the baptism of Jesus by the famous painter Elvio Cornacchia (1927 – 1975), who was from Fognano. Always to the left is an altar with an image of a miraculous crucifixion (moved from a nearby oratory) from the eighteenth century. For centuries the people of Fognano have called this artistic image of the dying Christ “è morè” (The Moor) because this eighteenth century sculpture is dark. Another altar is dedicated to the Heart of Jesus.

The boarding school and Convent Emiliani

Was founded in 1822 by the high priest Giacomo Ciani, often remembered, and Mother Superior Rosa Brenti from Tredozio (1790 – 1872) and by Giuseppe Maria Emiliani (1776 – 1872), a nobleman from Faenza. The monastic institution has always followed the rules of Saint Domenic and until not long ago was recognized as a primary school. Currently it is being used as a shelter and a place for spiritual contemplation and is a meeting point for groups and associations belonging to the dioceses of Faenza and beyond.

The initial purpose of the institution was education the young daughters of good means from every part of the region of Emilia-Romagna and Italy. Once the institute hosted the daughter of the great English poet Lord Byron. Her mother was Teresa Gamba, wife of the ill-fated Count Alessandro Guiccioli from Ravenna.

The Institute, named for Giuseppe Maria Emiliani, was favoured by Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai, Bishop and Cardinal of Imola who became Pope in 1846). The huge edifice occupies thirteen thousand square metres and is composed of corridors 172m in length. The architect of this building was once more Pietro Tomba from Faenza and was completed in 1832 after ten years of work.

The attached church is artistically interesting and is laid out in the form of a latin cross and is of Corinthian style. Along the nave are niches with canary glass statues of the patron saints of the Institute. In the altars to the left and right of the church are works of art by Gaspare Mattioli, one of a Madonna that has an image of Emiliani at her feet and a second is of a Pietà. At the lower right of the altar is a stone plaque in memory of Emiliani whose remains are buried in the church’s crypt.

Still in Fognano, near the bridge over the river Lamone, is a singular construction that incorporates two sacred buildings, the Chiesa del Soffraggio and l’Oratorio del Crocifisso. The former built from 1716-1717 by the “40 brothers”, an ancient confraternity and is of octagonal form with three baroque altars which are dedicated respectively to “Presentation of Maria to the Temple”” (by Anna Maria Bettoli), the second to the Crucifix and the third to Our Lady of the Graces. The adjacent building is the Oratory of the Crucifix, whose statue is now located in the parish church.

Piero Malpezzi

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