HISTORICAL NOTES OF THE ICON OF THE MADONNA DI PIA
Reporting some interesting historical information - on the Icon of the Madonna di Pia - written by the well-documented historian P. Guglielmo Salvi O.S.B., in the first half of the last century.
UNTIL a few years ago the beautiful icon of our Sanctuary was immersed, about the origin, in the deepest mystery. Unknown the author, not even the century in which it was painted was agreed among art critics; and others had it reassembled in the 15th century, others in the 14th century. However, the idea of attributing it to Fra 'Barnaba da Modena prevailed, as the Madonna who is venerated in the church of San Donato in Genoa was attributed to him. In fact, between the two paintings there are such evident similarities that they are believed to be painted by the same hand. They are both slender and shaped like a Gothic arch, with gilded relief, ornamental arches in the upper part. The two Madonnas arranged in the same way, holding the Child with the right hand; their faces, with their small mouths and sharp noses and almond-shaped eyes, in a serious attitude; the left hand with the ring in the middle finger; the folds of the clothes and the line of the hems, with the star on the left shoulder: everything speaks to us of an identical inspiration, under whose influence they were worked. And the particularities. of the Child, with squat shapes in both paintings, with curly hair, with a necklace around his neck, from which hangs a coral habit; holding his left foot with his right hand, they repeat the same thing to us. Even the variants are so naïve as to confirm the artist's effort not to repeat themselves. The Child of the church of S. Donato has in his left hand a folder with the inscription: come ad me omnes qui laboratis et ego reficiam vos; that of Finalpia has a multicolored bird; the first has a tunic quilted with stylized stars, while the Madonna has a single-colored mantle; the second, on the other hand, has a single-colored tunic and the Madonna a mantle covered with stars. The painting of Finalpia places on the sides of the Madonna two adoring angels, of which the painting of S. Donato is missing: but at the bottom of the table there is room for inscriptions that had to pass on to posterity the name of the author and in our case also that of the donor. It was this a circumstance that dispelled the error of attributing the Madonna of S. Donato to Barnaba da Modena. "The author's name: nicolaus de vulturo pin., Hidden for many years under a sort of seventeenth-century frame, was discovered by my illustrious friend, Prof. Cav. Giovanni Campora.
Having discovered the true author of the Madonna di S. Donato, the question of the artist who had painted the Madonna of Finalpia had to come backt; and in fact, immediately after Prof. Adolfo Venturi, according to the testimony of Silla, gave the paternity to Nicolò da Voltri (1). It is certain that Nicolò had an affair with the Finalesi: this can be inferred from an act signed in Genoa on June 5, 1395, to which acts as a witness (2). Perhaps in Genoa he also met the one who commissioned the icon for the church of Pia.
At the bottom of the painting of the Madonna di Pia, a writing, which reappeared more clearly after the restoration, says: Antonius basheria. This name occurs several times in contemporary documents, he appears in 1389 among the sailors embarked on a Genoese ship with other Pia's men: "Antonius" boscheria de finario "filius Raffi habitator" apud sanctam Mariam "de Pia (3)." In 1410-1411 on the ships there is his son, Donato, whom Antonius pater suus guarantees for boarding (4). He is also mentioned in a deposition of texts collected by the notary Finarino Schianello (5).
In Pia he owned a land in posse Finarii ubi dicitur Io Morim, sold to Vincenzo de Campis de Finario, before 11 December 1427 (6), mentioned once again as guarantor of the sailor Antinorio de Finario in 1442 (7), in 1449 he was already dead because he does not appear among the men who swear allegiance to the Republic of Genoa, after the defeat of Galeotto I del Carretto.
The painting donated by Antonio Baschiera certainly does not mark the beginning of Marial devotion.
The title of the parish itself traces it back to more remote times. The finding then in the ancient church the painting of "Our Lady, with other Saints" and "an ancona in which Our Lady with a ship remains painted" (8), tells us how it was established by means of the sailors, to whom it confirms the gift of 9 silver whistles, used on ships and that of 9 silver collars (9), with which the slaves taken by the Saracens on the sea were tied, as well as the new news of the painting offered at the end of 1300 by Antonio Baschiera.
On the other hand, the documents refer to the established custom of blessing weddings before the altar beate marie virginis. (10); and the fame of the Sanctuary which had attracted Meliaduce Usodimare to deposit four places, namely 400 lire, in the purchases of San Giorgio, whose interests had to be paid to the massari and governors of the church of Pia, would be unjustified a lamp in front of the altar of the Virgin (11).
Once the Olivetans came to Val Pia, among the many works they carried out there, there is no lack of "the ornament of the altar of the madona de Intaglio". (12), done with that skill of which Fra Antonio da Venezia was capable, known as the Provost, a disciple of the famous Fra Giovanni da Verona; in the midst of which the sacred Image shone with new splendor.
Between 1665 and 1695 the documents speak of a new "nche of the Holy Virgin of Pia", to whose construction the magnificent consuls of the Navy contributed with 300 lire: Cap, Giovan Vincenzo Pastorino and Pier Francesco Raimondo, on behalf of the community (13 ). On this occasion the painting had to endure several alterations. The upper part was cut, ending in a pointed arch; the inscription bearing the name of the donor and probably also that of the author was hidden under a thick coat of oil paint and partly abraded; and perhaps the whole sacred image was retouched. The arbitrary act committed by the abbot Don Cristoforo Colombo, who then presided over the Olivetan community, finds no justification and was in fact criticized by his successor Don Lorenzo Chiazzari (14), especially since the niche was soon to be demolished on the occasion of the building of the new church. It was replaced by the current one; led, like the altar and the balustrades, "to fine marbles and mixtures of Palermo," a gift from the brothers Ottavio Maria and Cristoforo Maria Prasca (15). The transport from the old to the new church took place on November 20, 1728. On the 21st, a procession was ordered, which was attended by 40 zoccolanti fathers of the Borgo, the Olivetan family with the two abbots Don Nicolò Galesio, of government, and Dan Gian Battista Spinola, owner , who came expressly from Genoa, and the most illustrious Governor of the Finale, Gian Battista Giustiniano, accompanied by the entire curia and quantity of officers and followers. They reached "the walls of the crescent of Castèlfranco towards the west and then retreated with equal order of piety and devotion" to return to the church, where the picture was placed in the marble altarpiece that can still be seen today. Gian Battista Scopesi, Canon Gian Bernardo Aicardi, Sacred Gian Battista Baurone (16). From that time to our days, how many events!
We had the suppression of religious orders in 1799; the reopening of the abbey in 1819; the sale made by Carlo Alberto to Abbot Casaretto, a monk from Cassino, in 1843; a new suppression in 1855; the return of the monks in 1905; the coronation of the sacred effigy by the hands of Cardinal Mistrangelo, legate of S. S. in 1920. And in all circumstances, the harbinger of hope and sanctifier of joys, the Virgin smiled from her icons.
Today, in memory of the jubilee year of human redemption, it is transported, blessing, through the streets of the ancient town, renovated with beautiful factories, in the midst of the freedom of its valley, in the midst of the smile of its marina, her presence to spread thanks to the parishioners of Pia, not degenerate from their fathers; to the people of the entire marquisate, who acclaimed her as Patroness.
(1) E. R. Silla, Le feste mariane in Val Pia. Rilievi di storia e di arte, Finalborgo, Tip. Vincenzo Bolla & F, 1920, pag. 15.
(2) 1:111zeri. Notizie dei professori del disegno in Li-guria dalle origini al sec. XVI. Vol. I, Pittura. Genova Tip. di Luigi Sambolino, 1870, p. 203.
(3) A. S. G, Galearum Marinarlorum Rationes. Reg. 652, e, 25 v.
(4) A. S. G. Gai. Mar. Rata cit. Reg. 674, e. 55 v.
(5) Archivio di Finalpia. Attestationes et dieta testium productorum per dorrzinum presbiterum Paulurn Sco-xeriam, c, 27 v,
(6) Salvi, Tre questioni di Storia Finalese, in Atti della Società Ligure di storia patria) vol 61, p. 218.
(7) A. S. G. Gai. Mar. Rat. cit. Reg. 663, c. 13 v.
(8) Sàivi. Op. cit., pag. 37. ,
(9) Salvi. Op. cit., pagg. 43 e 44.
(10) Arch. della Badia. Attestationes. citt. e. 8 v.
(11) Salvi. Op. 11.
(12) Salvi. Di fra Antonio da* Venezia e de' suoi lavo-ri in legno nella badia di Finalpia, in Rivista Storica Benedettina, 1910, p. 243.
(13) Silla, Op. cit., p. 10.
(14) Sfila. Op. cit., p. 12.
(15) Salvi. Il Santuario, cit. p. 48.
(16) Salvi, Op, cit. pag. 48 e 49.
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