THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELLA CARBONARA
HISTORY END DESCRIPTION
The Church of Santa Maria of the Carbonara is situated on the ancient road named Via S. Antonio (located under the bridge of the Cathedral). The church dates back to the 12th century, unfortunately it has lost most of the decorative elements of its time. During the Middle Ages, the church was the headquarter of the Templars, and in the XVI century was entrusted to the Rodi’s Knights (who later became the knights of Malta). The church was restored in 1964 by the sovereign military order of Malta. The Byzantine painting of the Madonna of Carbonara was long preserved in the church of Santa Maria. The painting is now located in the museum of the Colle of the Duomo, near the cathedral, where a copy of the painting is on display. During the Middle Ages in the street where the church stands to defend the city of Viterbo, wide ditches were dug and fences were fitted, called carbonaie, or carbonare. The church was built in one of these carbonare which gave the name to the Church. It was built between the late eleventh and early twelfth century, and represents the artistic influences of the Roman-Barbarians style with a façade embellished by colorful ceramic decorations, which have now completely disappeared. The painting, which stood in the center of the façade, is also lost. It represented the Saviour accompanied by two angels in adoration. Currently, the apse is partly covered by a newer building, the only original parts remained are the thirteenth-century double lancet windows with Romanesque arches. Inside the church there is the painting of Our Lady of Carbonara, a canvas nailed to a strong wooden panel that reproduces the image of the Virgin with the Child in her lap. The artist of the work, of Byzantine style, left an inscription below the figures of the painting: “Alma Virgo parit quem falsa sofia negavit”, these words allude to the heresy of the Nestorians who denied the incarnation of Christ and didn’t recognize Mary’s divine motherhood. In the thirteenth century this heresy was revived in Italy by some of the members of the Patarini religious movement which spread also in Viterbo. The painting, most likely, could be considered as the response of the believers of Viterbo to this heresy. In 1911 the painting was placed in the Cathedral where it was stolen in 1986. Today, thanks to its discovery due to the work of the carabinieri force, the painting is preserved in the Diocesano Museum. Currently, the Church is used by an Orthodox community.
Traduzione di Amanda Santini, California State University, Stanislaus e Caitlin Cregg, California State University, Chico, Programma USAC presso Università degli Studi della Tuscia.