THE CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI DECOLLATO OR SANTA MARIA DELLA GINESTRA CHURCH
HISTORY END DESCRIPTION
The church of San Giovanni Decollato has a Latin cross structure, with two entrances, one on Via del Lazzaretto and the other on Via S. Giovanni Decollato, an essential street of communication since 16th Century, which connected Porta Faul to the area of San Faustino. In the course of a few years, the possessors of the church changed continuously: in 1473 Niccolò della Tuccia remembers the friars Repentiti as the owners of the church, in 1490 the monks that managed it were dressed like hermits and in 1503 the church belonged to the third Franciscan order. Later, the church was managed by the friars called Minori Osservanti from 1520 until 1553. Then came the Confraternita della Pietà, afterwards the Confraternita della Misericordia or di San Giovanni Decollato. The latter had its seat in a room at the church of Santo Spirito a Faul, later known as the San Giovanni Decollato for the presence of the brotherhood. Giuseppe Signorelli, born in Viterbo in 1479, affirmed that in 1531 the brotherhood took place in the Ginestra church leaving the church of Santo Spirito to perfom the charitable purpose of preparing those condemned to death and buried in the nearby church of Santa Maria Valverde. From 1525, the year in which the rector Michele Pignet had restored the church because it was ruined during the civil war, in the end of 1527 the church was used as a hospital during the outbreak of the plague in 1524. Cesare Pinzi wrote that the priors “appalled by the heavy toll that had been taken, later they had to evict Franciscan monks from the monastery of Santa Maria della Ginestra under the church of the Trinità, to set up one of the shelters for people with leprosy”. In 1530 the Franciscans were dismissed because, according to Signorelli, “other monks ask to put healthy people therewithout giving them the church.” In 1542 two laic rectors were responsible for the church and in 1565, the convent of the SS. Trinità granted one third of the water for the cloister, which was increased by two-thirds in 1597. In 1549 the brotherhood of the Pietà joined to the Misericordia: the two brotherhoods are remembered in the church again in 1553. From 1613 the name of the Brotherhood of Misericordia changed its name into the Brotherhood of San Giovanni Decollato, and the church was named after the patron. Pope Paolo V, on July 21, 1611, granted the brotherhood the privilege to release a person sentenced to death every year, on the anniversary of San Giovanni Decollato, a faculty that was exercised until 1643. Cited in 1612, among the goods of the church there is a small effigy representing the beheading of San Giovanni Decollato and an antique image. Father Pio Seteria, in the “Memorie” (1825), writes: The Compagnia di S. Giovanni Decollato belongs to the hermitage of Santa Maria della Ginestra that is at the beginning of the new route to the Bagni: on the jambs or architrave of the door of this hermitage, it reads: “Hoc f(ecit) f(ieri) p. Nicolaus de Ianua prior sante Maria della Ginestra”. The Prior Niccolò of Genoa edified it in 1574. Feliciano Bussi (1742) placed it “outside the door of Santa Lucia.” In effect it was the beginning of the Tuscanese road. In September 1855, the cholera epidemic broke out. The City hall spent three scudi (currency of the time) and fifteen cents “for disinfestation done twice in the church of S. Giovanni Decollato, and having gone over the entire wet pavement with chloride of lime, and cleaning well the areas were the lime was deposited as ordered” In 1875, the church was handed over to the Italian state, who was responsible for the church’s deterioration. In the beginning of 1900, the pastor of the church of SS. Faustino e Giovita, Don Oreste Guerrini, saved a number of objects it stored. Later it became a municipal warehouse, then the headquarters of Banda Musicale of Viterbo and between 1970 and 1980 it was used as a garage for garbage collection trucks. In the end of the 80s, the Cooperativa Centro Arte e Restauro “Andrea Scriattoli” stipulated a contract with City Hall, in which the church’s restoration was expected in return for renting out the entire complex. Currently, the church houses the restaurant Pizzeria Lazzaretto.
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