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Sacred Places

THE PARISH CHURCH

When the ancient parish of San Pietro that stood on the homonymous hill in Campus Serrae was abandoned, the location of the parish church was moved inside the walls for security reasons, in what is now the historic center of the town. Built according to tradition, on the ruins of the ancient Roman temple, probably dedicated to the goddess Diana or the goddess Venus, the main body was erected in the thirteenth century. The original bell tower in Romanesque style was erected above the left-hand balustrade in 1402 and remained intact until 1858 when, by now, unsafe, it was demolished and replaced by today’s neo-gothic style tower, designed by the architect Marchini of Turin. It is 56 meters high and has become the symbol of the town.

 

THE ‘CHURCH OF THE BATU’

Built in 1620 as a house or oratory adapted into a ‘Chiesetta’ with the name of a Confraternity, it had the original title of the Conception. It was guarded by the village because it was located near the wooden drawbridge that gave access to the main gate of the fortified nucleus, and it was later called “dell’Immacolata”.

 

THE CHURCH OF CARMINE (Deconsecrated)

It is one of the 3 churches, along with that of the ‘Trinity’ and the ‘Immacolata’, which was built in Fubine in the seventeenth century during the Manzoni period. The facade is very similar to each other. The all have in common the nineteenth-century plaster, the tympanum and 3 central windows. It appears that, in the past, there was a central painting on the facade. The wooden statue of the Madonna is a fine work probably from the eighteenth century, similar to a contemporary production of the magnificent specimen preserved in the Parish Church in the niche inside the Ambrogio Oliva Polyptych in the Chapel of the Holy Rosary next to the High Altar. Both statues have a refined gilding.

The Bricherasio Chapel and the Crypt

of Count Emanuele by Leonardo Bistolfi

The area where the Chapel stands is known as “dei Cappuccini” (Capissìn, in dialect). In fact, in this place, in 1611, the Convent of the Capuchin friars was erected. The latter was abandoned and destroyed in 1814 because of the Napoleonic Edict that suppressed religious orders. The current Chapel was commissioned in 1864 by Count Cavaliere Luigi di Bricherasio, father of Count Emanuele and Countess Sofia.

The building was built in neo-Gothic style. The external structure, entirely in brick, has very thin walls, characterized by some small buttresses, five on the sides and two on the facade. Another typical feature of the era is the use of the pointed arch in both the internal vaults and in the windows. Above the entrance arch there is a stone bas-relief with the noble coat of arms of the Cacherano di Bricherasio and a small rose window that lets light filter inside the chapel.

The floor in front of the altar is decorated with a mosaic that reproduces a line taken from the “Eternal Rest”. The small nave is illuminated by polychrome stained glass typical of the period.

 

THE CRYPT. On the walls there are many tombstones of members of the family. On the left stands the large bas-relief sculpted in honor of the Marchesa Teresa Massel di Caresana, wife of Luigi di Bricherasio and mother of Emanuele and Sofia, the last descendant of the family. After all, there is the funeral monument of Count Emanuele created by the Casalese sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi, a personal friend of Count Emanuele and one of the leading exponents of the current Liberty. An authentic masterpiece in which Count Emmanuel, lying in the quiet of death, is portrayed with the uniform of Officer of the Royal Piedmont Cavalry and watched pitifully by an angel with a veiled head. Next to the Count’s tomb lies his great friend Federico Caprilli, cavalry captain and Magister Equitum, who died in obscure circumstances, shortly after the equally mysterious death of Count Emanuele, a signatory in 1899, with other aristocrats and entrepreneurs from Turin, of the foundation deed of FIAT then turned into Fiat in 1906. Cultured and of advanced ideas, attentive to new social demands, the Count was defined by the people of the town “the socialist count”.

The Castle of Fubine (Palazzo Bricherasio)

The first written attestation of the Castle of Fubine is contained in a document dated 26 January 1041 with which the Emperor Henry III confirmed to the bishop of Asti the half of “Fibine” with the castle, the chapels and all the appurtenances. This building, in the centuries to come, was sacked several times (famous the episode of 1316) until, towards the middle of the fifteenth century, it did not fit into the great restoration work of the Fubinesi fortifications. The work began in 1446 under the direction of Teodorino di Cuccaro and Anton Giovanni di Settimo, on a design by Bellingerio di Busca the “commissioner over the fortifications”. The castle was thus restored and surrounded by new defensive walls. In 1527 a new siege by the Spaniards led to the occupation of the village and the looting and burning of the castle. In 1590 the population appealed to the Duke Vincenzo I of Gonzaga who promised not to enfeoff Fubine anymore; at the beginning of the new century another bloody affair came upon Fubine: the sacking of June 1628. In 1658, despite the promise made by the Duke of Gonzaga, Fubine was subdued to Count Vincenzo Natta di Baldesco. The Count Natta began a complete restoration of the previous medieval castle which, in a state of neglect, was used as a quarry for construction material. In 1664 he had “built a large palace that had the shape of a castle, with many noble and civil rooms distinct from the rustic part and capable of housing nobilemen”.

 

THE ROOF GARDEN OF PALAZZO BRICHERASIO. The roof garden was probably built in the early 1800s. Halfway up the hill there is a cave which is not particularly common in the other noble palaces of Monferrato. The caves, in fact, were part of that vast furnishings that during the Neo-Gothic period served to amaze guests: it should not be forgotten that at that time the gardens had the sole function of intriguing and amusing the guests of the noble lords. The oral tradition requires that there were planted several species of trees, including some palms and a still green Sophora, placed in grass beds bordered by low hedges of boxwood that formed small paths and modeled on the style of the typical Italian garden.

The Infernots of Fubine

An Infernot is an underground cavity used primarily for the conservation of wine.

It is a sort of “appendix” of the cellar, typical of the Monferrato houses, dug into the subsoil. Thanks to the particular geological characteristics of this terrain commonly called “tufo”, but in the case of the fubinese context identifiable in sandy-silty levels, these hypogeal cavities maintain constant temperature and humidity throughout the year. It was customary among the peasant families to bottle a bottle of wine on the day of the birth of a new family member: on the bottle the name, surname and date of birth was written with the chalk; gypsum was used, the only material capable of withstanding the environmental conditions of these sites without deteriorating. From simple single-chamber structures we move to more complex constructions with multiple chambers and different depth levels. On the territory of Fubine, depending on the construction period, two types are identified: Those dating back to the late ‘800 / early’ 900 are the most widespread: they were hand-dug by farmers during the cold winter months when the countryside could not be cultivated and outdoor activities were limited. These artifacts are characterized by long corridors, almost always straight, ending in a large room. Those dating back to the mid-18th century are located in the historic center and are located near buildings formerly occupied by religious brotherhoods. These structures, much more complex than the Infernot mentioned above, had the main function of “escape route” in case of danger and, secondly, that of conserving wine. Noticable from the particularly spacious corridors that, although with an irregular pattern, allowed an easier passage. 

Door to the Monferrato

Situated between hills and plains, Fubine is located in the lower area of Monferrato and it has an almost barycentric position with respect to Alessandria, Casale and Asti. It’s name, dispite to the most imaginative and traditional interpretations, seems persuasively due to the term fibulinae (from fibulae, or buckles, with reference to a local craft activity).[ 1 ]

 

The first residential nucleus probably arose in late Roman age (4th-5th centuries AD) along a secondary unpaved road at the bottom of the valley, about halfway between Altavilla (whose name recalls the villae or Roman farms and in the hamlet of Molignano Roman artifacts were found) and Felizzano, also probably of Roman origin. The first official attestation of the existence of Fubine is contained in a diploma of 26 January 1041, with which the Emperor Henry III of Franconia assigns to Pietro Il, bishop-count of Asti, the possession of the territory and other castles, border between Arduinica and Aleramica.

 

The medieval and modern history of the village is set against the background of the complicated events of the ‘Basso Monferrato’, in the midst of territorial disputes that first saw the protagonism of the Marquises of Monferrato and the inhabitants of Alessandria. Subsequently, in a broader Italian and European horizon, of French and Spanish (Fubine, like many other villages in the area, was sacked by the Lanzichenecchi in 1527 and suffered more horrible devastation in 1628 during the long war of succession of Mantua and Monferrato, like from a novel by Manzoni). The spirit of freedom, which led to disputes and conflicts with various feudal lords until the end of the ‘600: memorable contention with Count Vincenzo Natta who, after the subjugation of the country, wanted to be buried in the parish church. In 1708 Fubine passed under the dominion of the House of Savoy.

 

Throughout the course of history, the agricultural vocation of the territory has created an important farming community, characterized by an extensive wine-growing activity. Even if it was not strongly productive in the eighteenth century it was founded mainly on a small property regime. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the capitalist transformation of the land regime was accentuated with the creation of a broad-based union of landowners. Due to the strong demographic increase following the Unification of Italy (the town passes from about 3000 inhabitants in 1861 to the 3800 at the end of the century) a gradual decline has taken place: the economic crisis of the early 20th century determines a strong migratory flow towards South and North America. In New York, the Fubinese Society, was flourishing between the 30’s and 50’s and survived up to a few years ago.

 

[1] See Dictionary of Toponomastica, Torino, Utet, 1997, s.v. (edited by A. R. [Alda Rossebastiano]).