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  • Writer's pictureCasa Nestore

Church of San Giovanni Battista - Castiglione della Valle

The parish church of this castle is dedicated to San Govanni Battista and its construction dates back to a period prior to 1163 as on that date Barbarossa confirmed it to the monastery of S. Pietro di Perugia, to which he also granted jurisdiction over part of the castle itself. The church is mentioned in the Liber Contractuum of 1331-32, in the Liber Beneficiorum in the year 1350 and in the cadastre of 1489. The rector of the church paid the monastery the annual canon of 3 corn stalks, reduced to one in 1387. In 1500 the special land register of the properties of this church was made, which had to be considerable, if, as Abbot Bini attests to us, “the Baglioni did not want to bring this benefit out of their family". In 1527, when this building was in very poor condition, the abbot of the monastery of San Pietro asked Donna Giulia, wife of Gentile Baglioni, to arrange for restoration. In 1505 the bishop's vicar visiting this church ordered that the parishioners make a chapel in it. Two years later, cardinal Fulvio Della Corgna decreed that tithes of grain and wine should be given to this church from those who collected it, and ten money from the others despite the custom to the contrary. In 1555 the church passed definitively to the monastery of San Pietro. In 1565 the bishop's vicar, visiting this church, ordered that the parishioners build a chapel and that it was officiated in lent by a monk of the monastery of St. Peter with license from the Ordinary. In the seventeenth century a dispute arose between the parish priest of Pieve Caina and the community of Castiglione della Valle; quarrel that continued for the beauty of twenty-five years and which ended in 1630 thanks to the intervention of the bishop's vicar, the prior of the cloisters and the Consuls of Merchandise. The dispute broke out regarding the right to baptize and was closed by erecting a source right in the church of Castiglione, and for once giving, as compensation for rights, the sum of 100 florins to the parish priest of Pieve Caina. But nine years later another question was rekindled about the blessing of the Source, but this was fortunately settled immediately with the establishment that on Holy Saturday before the blessing of the Source was done in Pieve Caina with the intervention of the rector of Castiglione, and immediately after the same rite took place in Castiglione with the intervention of the rector of Pieve Caina. The current building was rebuilt in the years 1890-93, in the same place where the ancient church existed, which had become insufficient. The building was designed by the architect Nazzareno Biscarini and was developed according to the scheme of the Leonine churches, the decorations were made by prof. Brugnoli from Perugia. The expenses were borne by the council that administered the property of the brotherhoods, which were sold to carry out the project, which was completed on July 23, 1893 but without the facade; the church was the same inaugurated and blessed by the archbishop of Perugia Msgr. Foschi. The facade of the church was completed by the architect Vignaroli in 1920, with the income from the brotherhoods. The roof of the church was restored in October 1944, while in 2004 the floor and restoration of the facade was completed.

External aspect

The facade, characterised by a checkerboard appearance, has two pilasters at the corners, the portal is in terracotta and surmounted by a lunette with bas-relief, above it a decorated frame divides the facade in two. The rose window is also in bricks and terracotta are also the figures of the 4 evangelists and Christ the Redeemer in the upper part. In the roof there are hanging arches and a cornice in terracotta overhanging on shelves. On the right side, light pilasters and frames repeat the internal structures, the apse is polygonal. The bell tower, separated from the church, was erected above one of the towers of the castle and is equipped with four bells: the smaller one weighs a quintal and the larger one four.


The entirely plastered interior has a single nave, with pillars forming four bays ending with the vaulted ceiling; the walls have arched niches with columns that house the side altars in the penultimate span; in the one on the left there is a canvas depicting a monk with the machine gun (perhaps S. Benedetto) and in the one on the right there is the statue of the Madonna in wood with the mantle edged in gold, perhaps the work of some skilled worker from Ortisei in Valgardena. The apse is polygonal and proposes a neo-Gothic style unique among all the churches. The upper register with five segments is surrounded by an ambulatory protected by columns, the lower one is distributed in five areas characterised by niches where there are statues (from left to right) of Our Lady of Sorrows of St. John the Baptist , St. Anthony the Abbot and St. Louis Gonzaga . The altar is raised by three steps, it is in marble decorated with columns. The presbytery is raised by a step and divided from the classroom by a marble balustrade with columns. On the left, on the entrance wall, there is the inscription that commemorates the consecration of the church dated 1893.

Leonine asked

The church of San Giovanni Battista, is one of the 54 Leonine churches, which was rebuilt on the previous one in 1892 by Arch. Nazareno Biscarini, who used an ancient fake for the facade, with a beautiful wooden door and a round arch. The Leonine churches are over fifty buildings of worship united by the fact that they were built or completely renovated in the years between 1846 and 1878 at the behest of the then Archbishop of Perugia Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, the future Pope Leo XIII, in the territory of the diocese . The wording " Leonine churches " traditionally identifies a number of 54 churches, or all and only the buildings mentioned in the " ad limina relationship”Drawn up by Pecci in 1873, which lists the parish churches at the time under renovation or in the process of being restored. However, it is also possible to include in the list of Leonine churches those which, although not included in the list of 1873, were built or restored at the behest of Pecci both during his episcopate (1846-1878) and after his ascent to the papal throne ( 1878), thus reaching a wider set of buildings. The buildings are scattered throughout the territory of the current Archdiocese of Perugia-Città della Pieve and can ideally be returned to the area between the centres of Perugia, Marsciano and Castiglione del Lago, with occasional exceptions in the Orvieto area. The Leonine churches have homogeneous stylistic features: they generally have a neo-Romanesque or neo-Gothic setting, which is manifested both in plan (frequently with a Greek or Latin cross) and in elevation (often with a simple hut or salient). Their recognisability also derives from the presence of recurrent architectural elements such as a rose window, a portal and a richly decorated eaves, as well as an integrated bell tower, merged or isolated from the main volume of the church. In addition, the churches have numerous brick elements on the facade, used both in the wall texture and in the decorative apparatus in the form of architectural terracotta. Precisely the use of brick constitutes one of the main recurring elements in these churches, which by no coincidence are rather concentrated along the via Marscianese, known in Umbria as the " brick street " for the thickening along this route of numerous historical furnaces. Among these, the Angeletti-Biscarini artistic laboratory, founded and directed by the sculptors Raffaele Angeletti and Francesco Biscarini, both trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia, takes on particular relevance in the specific case of the Leonine churches. The works of the laboratory, active in Perugia from the fifties of the nineteenth century until the thirties of the twentieth century and specialised in the production of moulded

terracotta for architectural use, are present in many Umbrian creations of the post-unification period.

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