A single nave, the current appearance of the interior is the result of the work of renovations that have affected the building, starting from 1719. Two alters with plaster decorations distinguish the side walls, one on the right houses a painting depicting San Giuseppe con Gesù Bambino e Santi and, to the left, a Madonna con Bambino e Santi. There is a magnificent central altar that dates to the same time, which is adorned with a painting depicting La Madonna in gloria e Santi.
Info: Monastero delle Benedettine – Tel. 0766/826066 – mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHURCH OF SAN PIETRO
The monastery of the Benedictine nuns, formerly called Santa Bibiana, has age-old origins. Its current name could be derived from the original male Benedictine monastery of San Pietro, located in close proximity to the Lake Bolsena and documented in the year 852. The Benedictines, who arrived in the city during the period of the barbarian invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, dwelt in San Pancrazio and San Simeone, as well as in San Pietro. Reconstructing the events of the beginning of the monastery of the Benedictine nuns is a very difficult thing. The various raids of the Gothics and the Vandals, as well as the fire of the archive of the monastery at the beginning of the seventeenth century, caused valuable documents to be lost. The masonry structures and the monastic construction of the architecture, as well as the hall, the ground floor and the first floor, attest to the antiquity of the building. During the seventeenth century, the whole complex was affected by significant restoration: in 1652 the pharmacy was built to service the entire city and a major renovation affected all of the building during the years 1671-1681. Other measures, intended to take away from the spiritual and material misery the Benedictines experienced, were adopted by the Cardinal Barbarigo, the Bishop of Montefiascone, with the decrees of the visit of 1688. In 1719, the nuns decided to build a new chancel [the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building] and the vault for the church, which was completely rennovated and equipped with three new altars of plaster. The bell tower, instead, was restored in 1752. Four bells are located at the top: that of San Pietro dates back to 1301 and was cast by a certain Matteo of Viterbo, the second was dedicated to Santa Scolastica, the third was called Bibianella is from 1829, and the last, dedicated to San Benedetto, was cast by the Viterban Luigi Belli in 1830. In 1810 the Benedictines, who in the meantime had embraced the common life, were forced by the governance of Bonaparte to abandon the monastery. Five years later the religious groups had regained possession of the monastery, but in 1870 the new Italian State seized the entire complex, auctioned it in 1905, and it was repurchased by the nuns themselves. In 1944 the monastery gained legal autonomy, which was actually crucial for the beginning of the school, in spite of the inconveniences caused by World War II. Mother Maria Cecilia Baij (1694-1766), one of the most important mystics of the eighteenth century, lived in this monastery about 300 years ago.
The convent of the Benedictine dominates the end portion of Bixio street. Crossing through the small sanctuary of Madonna of the Arch it is possible to reach the other side of the monastery and enter the annexed church of San Pietro. A single nave, the current appearance of the interior is the result of the work of renovations that have affected the building, starting from 1719. Two alters with plaster decorations distinguish the side walls, one on the right houses a painting depicting San Giuseppe con Gesù Bambino e Santi and, to the left, a Madonna con Bambino e Santi. There is a magnificent central altar that dates to the same time, which is adorned with a painting depicting La Madonna in gloria e Santi. The chancel opens behind the main altar of the church, where there are surviving ancient frescoes. Those in the niche of the back wall depict La Trinità, to the left La Vergine and to the right L’Angelo annunciante. They were discovered in 1907, when the large terracotta of Benedetto Buglioni was removed, then transferred to the cathedral. They are attributed to an unknown painter in the area of Siena from the late fourteenth century, as well as La Vergine con Bambino that appears to the left of the niche. Lo sposalizio di Santa Caterina, painted on the wall to the right of the chancel, is instead the work of an unknown painter in the area of Viterbo in the fifteenth century, the painting of San Pietro e Santa Maddalena is by an unkown painter from Lazio in the second half of the sixteenth century, while Santa Scolastica is attributed to an unknown painter from Lazio of the seventeenth century. This room called “Communicate” is the undoubtedly the oldest part of the floor on which the current monastic complex is developed. This space is connected to the external church through an iron grating through which the nuns could come to attend mass. It is also difficult to identify the original function of the room due to the scarcity of information pertaining to the convent in previous centuries. However, it can be assumed, given the nature of the subjects of the frescoes, that the walls were part of the original church or from a small oratory used by the religious community. The old structure were later modified and incorporated into the new buildings, constructed in the second half of the fifteenth century. The space in front of the “Communicate” also probably dates to this period, as indicated by the Renaissance style of the sculpted elements that characterize it, such as corbels [architectural elements that project upward and outward from within a wall] that support the cross vaults and keystones.
Church of San Pietro.
Translation by Diana Fonatine, University of Georgia, enrolled in the USAC Viterbo program.
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