The beginning of the works of the convent of San Paolo dates back to 6 November 1589, when “fra Paolo da Cortona fabricator” and three other Capuchins were commissioned to start the construction of the new convent, completed in 1592 “with a unitary project and homogeneous.
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CONVENT OF SAN PAOLO AI CAPPUCCINI
The Capuchins settled in Viterbo in 1538, building a modest convent dedicated to St. Anthony 3 km from Viterbo, at the foot of Mount Palanzana, on land donated by Cardinal Niccolò Ridolfi, bishop of Viterbo and Toscanella. Later they opened another monastery, occupying an area called Monte Oliveto, where the current convent stands. It was a modest building, with the church, the refectory and some small rooms for the friars.
The beginning of the works of the convent of San Paolo dates back to 6 November 1589, when “fra Paolo da Cortona fabricator” and three other Capuchins were commissioned to start the construction of the new convent, completed in 1592 “with a unitary project and homogeneous ”, including the cloister,“ a dry vegetable garden, an aquatic one, a garden, a simple vegetable garden, a forest ”, the aqueduct and a system of internal and external roads connecting to the city. At the end of the 16th century the church was also built, consecrated on February 8, 1615 by Cardinal Tiberio Muti.
In 1640 the convent was enlarged with the construction of a new wing used as an infirmary. The chronicles are quite accurate in recognizing the usefulness and efficiency of this infirmary, which the confreres and the most needy people referred to even from neighboring areas. From the early 18th century, the small hospital that the Capuchins had created in Viterbo enjoyed a certain autonomy from the convent, having its own kitchen, refectory and chapel.
The modest convent structure remained almost unchanged until the nineteenth century, when it underwent changes with “Father Girolamo expert fabricator”, who made additions with the library, the infirmary, other bedrooms and service rooms.
The convent complex survived unscathed until 1962. In fact, on 23 June 1962 the Minister Provincial wrote to the Minister General asking to be able to completely rebuild the convent. In the following months work began: the convent was completely demolished, with the exception of a few rooms including the church, and rebuilt within two years; it was inaugurated on 12 July 1964. In this circumstance the old building underwent profound transformations both in the exterior and interior, while respecting the unity of the volumes of the ancient complex. On 31 August 1964 the friars, still staying at the Palanzana, left the historic monastery to return to live in the convent of San Paolo. Further works of the last century involved in particular the church and the annexed rooms (choir and sacristy).
In 2008, a new important restoration intervention on the convent structure became necessary. In the second week of February 2008 there was the transfer of all the friars to the monastery of Santa Rosa, allowing the immediate start of the works.
This major restructuring ended in June 2010; a few months later the friars returned to the convent of San Paolo.
All activities resumed promptly; the philosophical course for the academic year 2010-2011 also got underway, as a branch of the Theological Institute S. Pietro in Viterbo.
The convent has distinguished itself over time for the activity of the major seminary where hundreds of young people have completed their human, cultural and spiritual formation under the guidance of expert theologians. In the most fruitful years there have been up to 50 professed.
THE CONVENT OF THE CAPPUCCINI FRIARS OF VITERBO
The convent complex shows a light color of the various buildings, with the exception of the facade of the church covered with red terracotta bricks, an evident result of the changes made to the structure in 1962.
Like all Capuchin houses, a large wood opens up behind the church. It is the traditional furniture of every convent useful for gathering wood, the silence of prayer and recreation; there is also a soccer field for young students. To the west there is a vegetable garden and a land with olive trees.
The functional area of the convent, an area of about 5000 square meters, is divided into three parts. The first is the convent, completely renovated: from the fixtures to the heating, from the rooms to the refectory, from the cloister to the chapel with stained glass windows that trace the life and activity of San Crispino.
The second part consists of the “Casa per ferie – San Paolo”, spread over two floors, with about twenty independent rooms with kitchen and internal bathrooms. It is open to students and pilgrims.
The third area is used as a school of philosophy, as a branch of the San Pietro Theological Institute based in Viterbo. There are classrooms for lessons and a computer room, equipped with the most advanced computer technologies; other rooms are reserved for the vice-principal, the professors and the secretary.
A project still being completed concerns the area of the library which will have, in addition to a large reading room illuminated by windows, an archive of about 100,000 books to be consulted.
At the convent, in the “Carlo da Motrone” conference room, some important works are preserved such as: the Resurrection, oil on canvas, made between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century (restored in 2010), attributable to Vitale di Sant ‘Étienne or to another painter of clear marattesque influences; another work is the canvas attributed to Luigi da Crema depicting Saint Anthony of Padua preaching to fish – oil from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. And again the oil on canvas from the early nineteenth century, attributed to Luigi da Crema, San Lorenzo da Brindisi leads the Christian army against the Turks.
BRANCA Remo, Un frate allegro, Editrice Sarda Fossataro, Cagliari 1971, pp. 180;
CESARINI Giovanni, Il convento dei Cappuccini di Viterbo: un esempio di organico sviluppo territoriale, in Biblioteca e Società, Viterbo 2008, pp. 24 – 26;
CESARINI Giovanni (a cura), I Cappuccini nella Tuscia. Frati pittori ed opere d’arte per le chiese cappuccine. 1535 – 1779. Catalogo della mostra. Viterbo 2010, pp. 143;
CESARINI Giovanni – FELINI Giorgio, San Crispino da Viterbo. Apparato iconografico e immagini per devozione, Associazione San Crispino da Viterbo, Viterbo 2008, pp. 127;
D’ALATRI Mariano, San Crispino da Viterbo. Un frate penitente, gioviale e benefico, ed. L’Italia Francescana, Roma 1982, pp. 178;
D’ALATRI Mariano, I Cappuccini a Viterbo, Viterbo 1989, pp. 114.
FIORINI Giancarlo, San Crispino da Viterbo, Roma 2016, pp. 96.