Slippery snakes twist all over the place. They are huge and fat and they bite the three men in the head. Blood gushes out and they die. One of them has a hat on and seems to be dragging himself forward. A fourth man, also with a hat on, is trying to escape. His arms are bent with his palms open as he looks back in horror. In the background, there is a faraway castle and a drove of pigs digging in the ground. There are monsters everywhere in the San Fiorenzo Church.
Frescoes cover the entire surface of the small San Fiorenzo Church, like a gigantic comic strip that comes to life on its walls. The “caricature” of the monster’s invasion, right next to the entrance, is not the largest, nor so clear, but it touches you as soon as you see it. It is stark in its simplicity. If you look up, you will see the “gigantography” (a giant, wall-sized picture) of hell covering almost the entire sidewall in front of the altar. The largest fresco, it makes it all too clear why one should not burden one’s soul with sin. Otherwise, the following awaits you: a demon in the form of a two-legged reptile that has faces with open mouths everywhere, on his knees and his arms, under his pelvis and above his head. They devour the naked bodies of the damned. Below, you’ll find human representations of the seven deadly sins, (anger, greed, envy, arrogance, gluttony, indolence and lust) led by a demon, in single file, towards their inescapable fate, a gigantic dragon’s mouth that will swallow them all. Each is subjugated by sin and chained by the neck. These frescoes date from the 15th century (dated June 24, 1472) and transmit the fervent and devout prayers of the humble. Biblical episodes, apocryphal gospels and legends of saints are combined to form a real “Biblia pauperum” (Bible for the poor).
Who was Saint Florentius (San Fiorenzo)? His life is shrouded in legends that date back to the fate of the Theban Legion, the Roman army that converted to Christianity and refused to execute believers in the Canton of Valais, in ancient Gaul. Florentius was a very skilled nobleman with weapons. Emperor Maximilian gave orders to wipe out the legion, but Florentius survived and came over the mountains to Bastia. Here, he was welcomed warmly by the residents and performed numerous miracles, but the emperor’s spies were everywhere. Florentius was captured and the only way to save himself was to renounce the Christian faith. He refused and was executed. According to legend, the remains of the saint are under the church.
THE CULTURAL ASSOCIATION
The small Church of San Fiorenzo is open every Sunday from April to October from 3pm to 7pm. Free guided tours are possible. On all other days and for mor information, please contact the “San Fiorenzo” cultural association.
Tel 0174 60125 o 338 4395585
In addition to San Fiorenzo, there are many other small churches of great historic value in the Monregalese and the Langa. Particularly noteworthy are the Chapels of San Bernardo in Piozzo and San Rocco in Mombarcaro . You can visit them on your own by downloading the “chiese a porte aperte” app on your smartphone (churches with open doors), which allows you access. Other noteworthy “gems” of this kind can be found in Cigliè, Rocca Cigliè, Rocca de’ Baldi, Roccaforte, Niella, Sale San Giovani, Prunetto, Dogliani, Lesegno, Marsaglia, Peveragno, San Michele and Castellino Tanaro.
There are around 60 stages to this circuit that are open to the public, thanks to the commitment of the “Volontari per L’arte” (volunteers for art) association.
10 chapels to visit between Cigliè, Rocca Cigliè, Bastia and Niella Tanaro: cappelledeltanaro.it/