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[:it]Side Altar of the Madonna of Graces[:]
The first altar on the left is dedicated to the Madonna of Graces. The valuable panel painted in 1377 by Barnaba da Modena (active 1361-1383) is positioned on the 19th-century altar table. The artist trained in Emilia but spent many years working in Genoa and is responsible for several paintings produced for Piedmontese churches.
This arched painting depicts the Madonna with Child (also known as the Nursing Madonna). The subject, treated as an icon in the Greek style, recalls ancient Byzantine culture, an appreciation of which was particularly widespread among the mendicant orders. The painting comes from the demolished Alba church of San Francesco d’Assisi, and has been the object of specific worship for some time.
In the 19th century, the figurative panels of the predella of the polyptych painted in 1493 by Gandolfino da Roreto were located on a side wall, arranged vertically. They are now visible, correctly aligned, on the table of the high altar. Many ex-votos can still be seen here instead, testifying to the persistence of popular devotion; some are small pictures painted between 1887 and 1928.[:]
[:it]Side Altar of Saint Rita[:]
Since the 1950s, this altar has been dedicated to the Augustinian nun Saint Rita of Cascia (depicted on the canvas attached to the section of wall in the central niche), but until the 18th century it was dedicated to Saint Stephen Protomartyr.
From 1828 it was consecrated to Saint Julius and Saint Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mother) and entrusted to the Lay Company of Master Builders. The 17th-century altarpiece (with the later addition of the holy priest, the patron saint of construction workers), long located in the presbytery, can be linked to the 19th-century dedication of this side altar.
But this was also replaced on the altar table by a painting showing only the two venerable dedicatees, later replaced itself in 1886 by a painting on canvas showing only Saint Anne. All that can still be seen of this latter work is the elegant gilded wood frame.[:]
[:it]Side altar of Saint Augustine[:]
Until the 19th century this side altar was under the patronage of Alba’s Cantone family, but by 1872 it had been transferred to the Biglino family. A 16th-century Late-Mannerist-style altarpiece in painted and gilded wood can still be seen on the altar table. It serves as a frame for a large panel, adapted to the space and painted in tempera, signed and dated under the Virgin Mary’s mantle with an inscription of doubtful authenticity: “Macrinvs faci.t 1508”. This is clearly a work by the celebrated Renaissance artist Macrino d’Alba (active 1495-1513, dead by 1528).
The painting shows the Madonna adoring the Child, Saint Joseph, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Saint Augustine the bishop, Saint Jerome and music-playing angels against a background of classical ruins.
The original destination of the picture (which might have initially had an arched shape) is not entirely clear. However, it clearly features the venerables favoured by the Augustinians, which, in addition to the dating, suggests that it came from the church of San Bartolomeo at the religious house of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Alba. The abbey was located outside the city, but after war left it in ruins, in 1556 the Hermits of Saint Augustine abandoned it and moved to this ecclesiastical complex.[:]
[:it]Side altar of the Madonna of Mount Carmel[:]
Though the altar table has been missing from the side altar of the Madonna of Mount Carmel since 1886, it is still distinguished by the large niche in the middle of the wall in which the 18th-century statue of Mary is set. This notable baroque sculpture in painted and gilded wood, by an unknown sculptor, is used for the procession held annually in honour of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel as part of the celebration first established in the 18th century.
The 17th-century altarpiece can be seen on the side wall to the left, in Late Mannerist style, depicting the Madonna with Child (Madonna of Mount Carmel) and the saints Elijah, Simon Stock (?), Francis of Assisi and Charles Borromeo. It is the work of a painter from the circle of the famed Moncalvo (the master Guglielmo Caccia, who died in 1625), who would have painted it on canvas in around 1628, the year in which the Company of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel was officially recognized. The work was originally positioned on the table where the priest would officiate at this side altar.
A 17th-century painting on canvas has been hung on the right-hand wall for some years now. It was donated to the church in 1992 and shows Saint John the Baptist in the desert and an angel. The work is attributed to Giuseppe Doneda (or Danedi), known as Montalto (1609–c.1678-1679), from Lombardy. Until 2003 it was kept in the sacristy.[:]
[:it]In the Presbytery and on the Choir[:]
In the centre, on the table of the main altar (made in 1894 based on a previous design by Turinese engineer Cesare Fantazzini), can be seen five tempera-painted panels, arranged horizontally.
These pictures, which in the 19th century were located on a wall of the side altar of the Madonna of Graces, and in the following century were mounted in a single cross-shaped frame visible in the apse, were part of the predella of a prized polyptych which for a long time has been on display at the Galleria Sabauda in Turin.
This polyptych seems to have originally been executed by the Asti artist Gandolfino da Roreto (documented from 1493 to 1518) in 1493 for Alba’s abbey of San Francesco d’Assisi, demolished in 1814. The recomposed panels show Jesus Christ and the Apostles, in a style that recalls the Ligurian-Provençal tradition.
In the middle of the back wall, above the choir, is the large altarpiece (oil on canvas) showing the Baptism of Jesus Christ. It seems as though in the 19th century it was included and adapted into a larger, composite, arched frame, similar to an ancona, protruding significantly (from the demolished Alba church of San Francesco d’Assisi). This important work was painted by the Savigliano artist Giovanni Antonio Molineri (1577-1631) for this parish in the third decade of the 17th century, commissioned by the Augustinians. The scene is captured with a simple, strong naturalness, though with clear post-Caravaggesque touches.
High up on the back wall of the church can be seen the triptych mural painted in 1887 by Paolo Gaidano (1861-1916), a Poirino native who was active in Turin. Using a traditional style, he has skilfully depicted the Madonna with Child, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Francis of Assisi and, to the sides, two cherubs.
On the wall to the left hangs the 16th-century painting which in this church was originally positioned on the side altar table of Saint Lucy and Saint Nicolò (located where the baptismal font currently is). It shows the Madonna with Child, Saint Augustine (or Saint Nicholas the bishop?) and Saint Lucy the martyr against a background of classical buildings. The provenance is not clear; it comes either from the Augustinian abbey of S. Maria della Consolazione in Alba (abandoned by the monks in 1556) or from Alba’s S. Nicolao church, which no longer exists. The painting is datable to the first quarter of the 16th century. The unknown artist was probably from the circle of Macrino d’Alba, and was perhaps also responsible for the altarpiece “della Consorzia”, formerly in the cathedral and now in the town hall.[:]
[:it]Between the Presbytery and the Choir [:]
In the right-hand section of the presbytery, against the wall, can be seen a seat made from carved walnut wood, made from pieces of the now-lost 15th-century choir from Alba’s abbey of San Francesco d’Assisi, demolished in 1814.
The old choir, commissioned by the Franciscan brother Marco da Sommariva, was made in 1429 by a sculptor from Pavia, Urbanino da Surso (c.1380–1461/1463). The bas-reliefs reassembled here (between the backrest and the part below) show the dream of Pope Innocence III, the Nativity with the arrival of the Magi and various saints, mixed in with decorative and symbolic motifs.
Above the seat is a large oil painting on canvas, which in the 19th century was positioned on a side altar table, dedicated to Saint Julius and Saint Anna, at the time under the patronage of the Company of Master Builders. Before then it was positioned in the side altar of the Guardian Angel. In the painting, which was replaced by another from 1822, we can see Baby Jesus (or Toniolo?), Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the Guardian Angel, the Eternal Father, the Holy Ghost and Saint Julius. Almost the entire work, in the style of Cherasco painter Sebastiano Taricco (1641-1710), dates to a period between the late 17th and the early 18th century, except for the figure of the patron saint of builders, who seems to be a 19th-century addition to adapt it to the dedication of the aforementioned altar.
The antique processional crucifix in painted wood dates from the first decades of the 16th century. By an unknown artist, it is a work of great value, but with subsequent integrations. Two paintings, hung from the side walls on the choir, date instead from the 17th century, and depict various Saints and Blesseds, including the protectors of the city. The paintings, on canvas, also show the coats of arms of the patrons, Vittorio Nicolino Della Chiesa, the bishop in Alba from 1667 to 1691, and the distinguished Como family.[:]
[:it]Side Altar of Saint Job[:]
This altar was originally dedicated to Saint Honoratus, then to Saint Job. From 1822 it was under the patronage of the Society of Silk Spinners, a society connected to the church of S. Giovanni due to the cocoon and silkworm market held in the square in front of the church.
The altarpiece on the table, painted in 1823 by the Savigliano artist Giuseppe Chinantore (1747-1824) was commissioned by this professional association.
The arched canvas shows the suffering of Saint Job. The wood-and-glass confessionals underneath were installed there in 1886.[:]
[:it]Side Altar of Saint Francis de Sales[:]
Between the 17th century renovations and 1821 this side altar was dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel and was under the patronage of the Picco family. From 1822 to 1872 it seems to have been dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales and been under the patronage of the noble Deabbate family, who inherited it from the previous patrons.
From 1872 to 1933 it was also dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Saint Teresa of Avila (already depicted in the altarpiece). Dedications to the Madonna of Mount Carmel and Saint Francis of Assisi were also added. But originally it was the 19th-century dedication of the altar to the bishop saint and Doctor of the Church, protector of writers and journalists, that prevailed.
A large arched altarpiece is displayed on the altar table, showing Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Teresa of Avila and angels. By an unknown artist, it was painted on canvas in the last two decades of the 17th century and partially retouched in the early 1820s. It seems the work was acquired around 1822 by the erudite count Vincenzo Deabbate (Patrizio d’Alba Pompeia natio di Cuneo, “from Alba Pompeia, born in Cuneo”) for this side altar.[:]
[:it]Side Altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Zita[:]
Until 1821 this side altar was dedicated to the Guardian Angel (with its own 17th-century altarpiece, now visible in the presbytery). From 1822 to 1832 it was dedicated to Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Eligius the bishop. From 1832 to 1886 the dedication was changed to Saint Joachim, and in 1886 Saint Zita, the protector of housemaids and bakers, was added.
In 1934 the dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which later prevailed, was added, with the related 19th-century statue transferred here from the side altar of Saint Francis de Sales.
Since 2016, a canvas showing the Supper at Emmaus has been on display on the side wall. The work, a private donation from the last century, is signed “GAM” and dated 1629, and has been attributed to the Savigliano artist Giovanni Antonio Molineri (1577-1631).[:]
[:it]Side Chapel of the Baptismal Font[:]
This side section of the church was completely transformed in 1939, based on a design by the Alba architect Giovanni Oreste Dellapiana. Initially, this was the location for the side altar of Saint Lucy and Saint Nicolò, which was under the patronage of the Verri della Bosia counts, then the Parucca family and, at least from 1872 on, the Raineri family.
The 16th-century painting from the circle of Macrino d’Alba, showing the Madonna with Child amidst Saint Augustine (or Saint Nicholas the bishop?) and Saint Lucy the martyr, was displayed here. For some time it has been on display in another part of the church.
Now, in particular, here one can see the marble baptismal font from 1939. Above, on the wall, is a sculpted group in terracotta, by the Turinese artist Virgilio Audagna (1903-1995). The work represents the Baptism of Jesus Christ, depicted in a conventional style.[:]
[:it]Counterfaçade of the Church[:]
The current counterfaçade of the church actually corresponds to the back wall of the medieval house of worship, whose first documentary evidence dates from the 13th century (1229, 1233, 1250, 1253). Indeed, at that time its longitudinal axis had the canonical orientation, with the presbytery and the apse positioned towards the east and the façade facing west. The fragments of frescoes hidden behind the organ gallery, which can only be seen with difficulty, date from the medieval period. They were rediscovered in 1989. Behind the handrail, along the flight of steps that leads to the organ loft, can be seen two well-defined female figures, not particularly large. In the same section, to the left, can be seen the standing figure of a saint (Saint John the Evangelist), much higher than the two women. On the other part of the wall, hidden behind the wooden structure holding the pipes and bellows, it is possible to partially see another standing saint (Saint John the Baptist), inside a decorative frame. They are positioned symmetrically at the sides of what was probably a complete pictorial composition, originally entirely visible to the faithful as they faced the main altar. Stylistically, some experts believe that the fresco fragments recall certain characteristics of some French painting from the first half of the 14th century. There are similarities with the expressive methods of the so-called “Maestro di San Nicola”, the anonymous fresco painter who worked in the church of S. Andrea in Savigliano, in Savigliano’s old town hall and in a private home, also in Savigliano. The linear Gothic of the fragments in this church, as well as some affinities with the painted wooden ceiling in Alba’s Palazzo Serralunga (from the Angevin period), suggest a possible dating to the third decade of the 14th century. The pipe organ was installed in the organ loft in 1876. It was the work of two organ-making brothers from Centallo, Francesco and Vittorio Vittino.[:]
Associazione culturale San Giovanni Piazza Pertinace 4, 12051 Alba CF 90044700046 Crediti