CHURCH OF SAINTS FAUSTINO AND GIOVITA (Known as San Faustino)
The current building is the result of a radical eighteenth-century reconstruction of an older church of which we have news starting from 1236, annexed to the Priory of S. Luca. The primitive church must have been a modest rural building surrounded by vegetable gardens. It acquired greater importance with the development of the district and reached considerable dimensions in the fifteenth century with the construction of various chapels by the noble families Bussi, Ciccolini, Scardaone, Tosone. It reached its moment of maximum splendor in the early years of the following century when it was hired for the office of the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem (or Knights of Rhodes) who had been forced by the Turks to abandon their Aegean island, taking refuge in Italy. -the monks-warriors obtained from Clement VII to place their residence in the Rocca of Viterbo, waiting to find a definitive seat-. The Grand Master Filippo Villiers de l’Isle-Adam chose the church dedicated to the martyr Faustino, next to the Palazzo della Rocca, for the religious functions of the Order and in February 1524 he had the famous relics escaped from Rhodes exposed to the veneration of the Viterbo people. including the image of the Madonna of Constantinople or Filerno. Inside there were also buried some knights whose tombstones are still visible in the left aisle. When on 15 June 1527 the Order left Viterbo for a new seat, subsequently settling in Malta, thus definitively assuming the name of Knights of Malta, the revered Byzantine image of the Madonna of Constantinople was donated to the church, which is still venerated there and which , crowned for the first time by the Vatican chapter in the seventeenth century, it was crowned again by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on 10 May 1964. The temple was completely rebuilt in 1759, based on a design by the Viterbo architect Giuseppe Antolini thanks also to the generous offers of the impresario Filippo Prada. Other restorations were carried out in 1901 and in 1909 the granite floor was redone. Between 1960 and 1962 it was replaced with a marble floor, in the same period the roof was rebuilt.
The façade, reworked in a neoclassical key, is plastered and tripartite with peperino pilasters; there are three doors, the central one, larger, is framed by columns bearing a round tympanum, the two side portals are instead made with molded uprights and architraves decorated with festoons, surmounted by cuspidated tympanums; in correspondence with the portals there are three windows and an oculus at the top of the facade. Powerful buttresses resting on the slopes of the side aisles clamp the central body of the church. On the left of the central portal a marble plaque with a peperino frame from 1654 commemorates the General Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Rhodes. The remains of a sundial are still visible on the left wall. In the rear area of the church, on the right side, the square bell tower is erected, ending in a bulbous dome. The construction of the bell tower dates back to 1594 to replace the existing one, probably with a sail and inserted in the body of the church; during the renovations in 1759, a floor was raised to harmonize its dimensions with those of the new church and the elegant dome was built.
It is divided by architraved pillars alternating with round arches in three naves that end in the apsidal choir covered by a dome. The side aisles are divided by transverse arches into chapels covered by half domes, some of which ended with a lantern. The wooden choir and confessionals date back to the 18th century, when the church was rebuilt; the terracotta Via Crucis was created in 1965 by Luigi Minciotti from Viterbo. Starting the visit from the right, you will notice (1) a small shrine with the Madonna della Luce – because in front of the image the Mass for the peasants was celebrated at dawn -, part of a larger fresco of the fifteenth century with St. Bernardino da Siena and S. Caterina, located there in 1759, date of the total reconstruction of the church. In the first altar (2), in the chapel under the patronage of the notary Ser Nuto Ciccolini, as documented by the coat of arms located at the bottom right, there is a canvas depicting the Immaculate Conception with Saints John the Evangelist and Nicholas of Bari, attributed to the Viterbo Angelo Pucciatti (17th century). The next chapel is dedicated to the Crucifix, the 17th century wooden Crucifix that was on the altar is currently kept in the sacristy. In the former sacristy (4) there is a Palestinian-style permanent poly-scene nativity scene with dioramas of the life of Jesus, the work of experts from Viterbo. Under the dull remains of frescoes on the back wall and on the right are still visible. In the adjacent room, the former chapter house, we find three paintings depicting St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, St. Francis di Sales and St. Francesca de Chantal, and St. Anthony of Padua. Noteworthy (3) is the painting of the Assumption with St. Charles, St. Anthony the Abbot, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Francis (1640) by the Viterbo artist Filippo Caparozzi, formerly in the Chapel of the Assumption Monastery. Returning to the right aisle, in the back wall (5) there is the altarpiece depicting the Madonna at the Sepulcher with the Angel of the Passion by Ludovico Mazzanti, a painter from Orvieto (18th century) and then, in the apse of the Prada chapel (6) , the Massacre of the Innocents (1764) by Vincenzo Strigelli from Viterbo. The main altarpiece with the depiction of Saints Faustino and Giovita in prison (7), made in 1761, is also the work of Strigelli; the two titular saints of the church are also depicted in two canvases placed on the sides of the altar, the work of an anonymous 17th-century artist. In the left apse (8) the chapel under the patronage of the Orioli family was erected, here the Madonna of Constantinople is preserved, adorned with a glory of cherubs, a Byzantine school painting donated by the Knights of Jerusalem: preserved here since 1527 when the Gerosolimitani they took refuge in Viterbo and had S. Faustino and Giovita as a church for the office of the Order. On leaving the city, the knights donated the venerated image to the church. There follows (9) the S. Giovanni di Patmos, attributed to Urbano Romanelli (XVIII century) son of the great Giovan Francesco and then (10) the eighteenth-century Beheading of the Baptist, by Anton Angelo Bonifazi from Viterbo, coming from S. Giovanni decollato. A 16th century oil on a wall (11) depicting the Pietà is attributed by Faldi to Teodoro Siciliano, author between 1558 and 1559 of the frescoes in the Sala del Consiglio in the Palazzo dei Priori. In the niche (12) of the marble baptismal font (1604) the Baptism of Jesus is frescoed, dated to the 18th century.
Signorelli Mario, La chiesa di S. Faustino: memorie storiche, Viterbo 1961.