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SANTA ROSA CHURCH
The construction goes up to the middle of the century last (1850) from initiatives of the Cardinal Gaspare Bernardo Pianetti, Bishop of Viterbo, who order the reconstruction of the church, on the structure of that pre-existing, resemblance of the 16th century Santa Maria delle Fortezze (today in great measure destroyed), however without achieving significant results on the architectural floor. The majority of the financing came from the Clarisse convent, committed to enlarge and to update the old complex from 1632. The current building, also from artistic modest interests, covers, however, a large value for the people of Viterbo because of the ties to the figure of the patron of the city, fear not only in Tuscia, but in most other parts of the world. The dome that surrounds the church (this architecture project of Arnaldo Foschini was achieved in 1917) was difficult to blend with the demand of the high-spirited Renaissance façade, solemn, strict, uniform and divided by flat pilasters with iconic capitals on which rests a large tympanum. Originally in its place stood the church and the monastery (dedicated to Santa Maria) of the Povere Sorelle of San Damiano of Assisi, of which there are records from 1235. Around the middle of the fourteenth century the complex was starting to be called S. Rosa. In 1258 Pope Alexander IV made them “transport” the body of “Santa Rosa” to the church of Poggio, which had been buried in the earth near the church for seven years. History and popular belief merge to inform us of a miraculous episode that would generate the cult of the saint and the “Macchina di Santa Rosa” which today is a spectacular religious event (September 3rd every year). According to tradition Rosa died March 6th, 1251 and was buried, as previously mentioned, nearby the church of Santa Maria of Poggio, near her modest home. Had you been alive you would have asked many times to enter the convent of nuns of San Damiano, receiving always a severe denial from the abbess. The eternal conflict between the Catholics and the heretics, which defined a good part of the Middle Ages, Rosa was considered to many as a rebel emperor and an enemy of the church and therefore she needed to be cautious. “ I know that this is not the cause” the young girl used to say, “And because they despise in me what God praises? This is the stupidity in the world and wisdom in the eyes of God is that which you despise and be glad that you live as if you were dead, and in fact you have”. A few years after her death she reoccurred appearing in the dreams of Pope Alexander IV, who at this time was residing in the city, warning him that he should transfer her body to the nuns of Santa Maria at San Damiano. The pointiff followed the premonitory dream and ordered the transfer, according to the tradition, and the transfer came with a procession of four faithful cardinals on September 4th, 1258. The transport of the “Macchina di Santa Rosa”, on September 3rd, remember, is in fact for this historical event. The church, which was reconstructed after the fire of 1357, was repainted on the interior during the fifteenth century, after the building of an extension by Benozzo Gozzoli with scenes of the life of the saint. The valuable works were destroyed due to the additional repair work during the first half of the 17th Century. There are nine remaining copies (watercolor paintings) of mediocre technique, of the Orvieto painter Francesco Sabatini (1632) which are in the custody of the Museo Civico of Viterbo. These episodes of Gozzoli, which we will never see, represented: the resurrection of the dead relative, the apparition of the Crucified, and the preachings of Rosa; the exile from the Vicar of Frederick II; the announcement of the death of Frederick II by the angel and the preachings that Rosa gave the people of Soriano; the miracle of the blind; the evidence of the fire; and the refusal by the Convent and the death of Rosa; the appearance of the pope and the retrieval of the corpse. Two paintings signed by Gozzoli (probably non transferred in the fresco) are conserved in the British Museum in London and the Cabinet of Prints in Dresden.
On the end of the right aisle, on the counter, is a plaque posted in 1933 by the Bishop of Viterbo, Emidio Trenata, recording the work of consolidation of the church. The inner door on the right side comes from the old church of 1632. The wooden crucifix on the first alter dates back to the seventeenth century: the head of Christ, bent forward, is surrounded by a ring of gilded wood. The following stele indicates the tomb of Don Alceste Grandori (1880-1974), acclaimed as one of the most fervent devotees of Santa Rosa of Viterbo and the charismatic father of the church of Viterbo. “He loved the supernatural very much and teaching many generations of Viterbo to practice the truths of faith. He was an incomparable and unforgettable teacher. The church of Viterbo is grateful. March 9, 1978.” On the back of the large column, a plaque of the Third Franciscan Order remembers the seventh centenary of the death of Santa Rosa (September 2, 1952). The golden bronze urn (on the sides two angels in prayer), that we can admire in the chapel of the Saint, is from 1699 and replaces two preceding wooden ones, one that is housed in the adjacent home of Santa Rosa (1). The scenes on the outside walls of the urn (artist unknown), represent miracles and events in the life of the Saint. The body is blackened from centuries and from the incident of 1357. It is miraculously intact and covered with a silk tunic that is periodically replaced the by the nuns in the adjacent convent. The last replacement, was on February 13, 1990. The old tunics become relics for the faithful. At the bottom of the steps, there is a fine marble statue in the memory of the Saint by the Sicilian sculptor, Francesco Messina (1940). The tombstone that follows, along the right wall, is the place on the grave of Count Mario Fani, the founder of the Gioventù Italiana di Azione Cattolica (1845-1869). Pio XII said “back in 1868, during one night of prayer at the chirch of Santa Rosa of Viterbo, Mario Fani sprang from the heart the first branches that today can be called the first root of the robust trunk of Aziona Cattolica Unitaria…” The tombstone was asked to be made by the same Azione Cattolic. On the back of the pylon, in the front of the tombstone, is a reminder of the 75th year of establishment (1943). On the last alter on the right, there is a painting by Publio Muratore that replaces a preceding 19th century painting by Dilani (it has been destroyed). It represents Santa Rosa holding a bouquet of flowers. On his knees, the bishop of Viterbo, Luigi Boccadoro and on foot, San Francesco and Santa Chiara. In the background is the Palace of the Popes (palazzo dei Papi). At the head of the nave, above, is a plaque that commemorates the consecration of the church by the cardinal, Gaspare Pianetti (August 25, 1850). At the bottom there are two more, the first bears the signatures of the Italian Catholic Youth Society in recognition of it founders (September 8, 1921), including Mario Fani. The second of February 1893, pays similar gratitude to Marco Fani. The canvas painting of the presbytery (2) has a gilded wooden frame. It depicts Santa Rosa surrounded by angels that accompany her in the sky over a landscape of Viterbo and Francesco Podesti of Ancona (1812-1855). This painting replaces a previous one by Romanelli (17th century) that is now destroyed. The great altar of polychrome marble was given by the Consiglio Superiore dell’Azione Cattolica Femminile (The Higher Council of Catholic Women) in 1937. The plaque on the ride side of it reads: “To Santa Rosa of Viterbo- illustrious Virgin of the saraphic army- beloved Patron of the Gioventù Femminile di Azione Cattolica- the Consiglio Superiore di G.F consecrates the marble with its undying graditude. In the alter a confident prayer is expressed, pleading for her celestial intercession, ardent charity, and zealous works and for the salvation of souls for the glory of God. Milan Septemer 1937 The counterpart, settled after the liturgical reform, is similar to the first. The front wall of the left apsis welcomes four tombstones. At a sentence written at the top remember that the Cardinal managed to reconstruct the church in five years, defeating all difficulties the Papal state was having provoked form at the time. At the bottom the tribute to the tombs of Margherita Ciofi (1868), Anna Signorelli (1870) e Adelaide Bianchi (1866). The cloth, on the third alter on the left, is attributed to Vincenzo Pontani and symbolizes the death of San Giuseppe. In the back of the tower from the front, is a tomb of Giuseppe Signorelli, Presidente Ispettore al Catasto Pontificio (1865) “… he loved sincerely the Chruch.” Nearby, is the adored wooden statue (coming from Ortisei) of the Madonna di Loreto protector of the Aviators, donated by the Association of the Army Aeronautics. Following the walls, read the memory of Bishop of Viterbo Adelchi Albanesi (1883-1970), buried here, representing the medallion in bronze of Francesco Nagni that precedes the very beautiful polyptych signed (on the plank at the feet of the pocket) from the master, from Viterbo, Francesco d’Antonio Zacchi known as Il Balletta (15th Century). The work, dated 1441, symbolizes the Madonna in throne with the Child between S. Rosa and S. Caterina d’Alessandria; at the point, Annunciation and the Madonna from Misericordia; in the side pillar: S. Giovanni Battista, S. Antonio Abate, S. Margherita, S. Maria Maddalena, S. Ludovico da Tolosa and S. Chiara; on the alter-step: Christ in pity between the Madonna and S. Giovanni Evangelista and at the side, S. Paolo, S. Lorenzo, S. Luca, S. Biagio, S. Francesco and S. Bartolomeo (3). At the base of the polyptych, a tombstone to remember the fallen in war (1940-1945). The cloth on the alter that follows (the frontal refined in colorful marble) is by the German painter Michele Wittmer and depicts the Madonna with the Child between S. Francesco of Sales, S. Giovanna Francesca Fermito of Chantal, S. Bonaventura, S. Antonio from Padova and S. Stanislao Kostka. In the choir on the inner door is placed an mechanical transmission organ. The inner door is a gift from the Legionari Viterbesi veterans from East Africa (1937). The floor in colored marble was made by the company Anselmi ins Viterbo. The inside of the dome, fresco in part by Giuseppe Cellini, presents the four Evangelists, in the sails; in the basin the Beato Crispino, S. Francesco, S. Giacinta and S. Giacomo and in the crown, the spiritual Lamb between Angels. The “Via Crucis” decorated in copper, was made by the sculptor Roberto Ioppolo, from Viterbo.
Traduzione di Veronika Melnick, Seattle University, Danielle Maddock, University of Nevada, Reno, Alicia Bertram University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Programma USAC presso Università degli Studi della Tuscia.