Church of Madonna della Montà

Church of Madonna della Montà (cimitery)   ,   Via Dietro 3   ,   18010   Molini Di Triora (IM)   Italy


The sanctuary is a church dedicated to Mary, called Madonna della Montà, or "of the climb".

It is located in the Ligurian municipality of Molini di Triora, in the Argentina valley, in the province of Imperia, along the ancient road that connects Molini to Triora.

The main festivities are celebrated on March 25th on the Feast of the Annunciation and on September 8th for the Nativity of the Virgin.

Tradition has it that the church dates back to the 13th century as the first seat of the parish of Molini, but the current construction dates back to the 15th century and the cult was born from popular tradition, which wants to extend the protection of the Virgin to the dead.

This little church presents a cycle of frescoes that is certainly by Antonio da Monteregale, a cycle signed by himself.

A sign of the church's antiquity is the bell tower initially with its square roof to which the spire was later added.

The church, which has certainly undergone at least one renovation in the fifteenth century, has an interior with three divided naves and supported by four colonnades.
The two side aisles preserve the trussed vault; in the central one the vault has been rebuilt in masonry.
A large baroque wooden altar riser, due to the local carver Gio Batta Borgogno called Buscaglia, frames the previous painting (1605) by the Triorese painter Giovanni Battista Gastaldi depicting the Madonna and Child between Saints John the Baptist and Catherine.
On the sides are the statues of the Madonna and the Announcing Angel.
The most interesting part in the decorative context of the building, long hidden by the wooden structure of the Buscaglia, is the painted cycle of the back wall, signed and dated 1435 by Antonio Monregalese, which we will explain below.
The work is very significant in the framework of the artistic relations between Liguria and Piedmont during the first half of the 15th century.
Another interesting fresco depicting Ecce homo came to light in 1925 above a primitive altar.
The sanctuary was entered through three large doors, one of which was reserved for the people of Trieste, who flocked to the sanctuary in great numbers on the occasion of the of the main feasts, such as the Annunciation and the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

An excellent description of the history that the frescoes of this church have had is described by Raineri, who report below:

" In the acts of the Holy Pastoral Visits of many dioceses, towards the end of the 16th century, one can find it on almost every page, the all too often fatal phrase: "mandat dealbari". Even the Monregalese knows how many chapels from the 1400s were whitewashed by order of the apostolic visitor Scarampi.
It is still told, and the fact is handed down from generation to generation by old local priests, that when it was ordered by the Bishop of Albenga to cover with white the paintings of St. Bernardino of Triora, the order must also apply to those of the church called della Montata near Molini di Triora.
The order of the bishop met resistance from the most authoritative people of the Molini place, and then the Prelate, who was in Sacred Visitation, ordered that the scaffolding be raised immediately to carry out the whitewashing of the walls of the church; and he wanted to assist in person to these operations.
Since he then had to leave suddenly for Albenga, the Molini family immediately demolished the scaffolding and the work started was no longer continued.
And this is why in the church of Molini the paintings of the presbytery did not suffer the same fate as those of San Bernardino. "

This is what Father Ferraironi tells us in his book (26) with the date and the name of the author of these paintings: 1435 Antonio de Monteregale.

It can almost with certainty be said that this is the only bibliographic citation of this painter that is so important for 15th century Monregalese painting.

The great baroque altar that was erected against the wall of the altar, if it ruined the fresco somewhere and prevented the view for a long time, it also served to protect it from complete destruction, taking into account the disposition of many bishops. and religious of the 17th and 18th century towards medieval Gothic art.

Since the Reverend Abbot Allaria gave news of these paintings in 1918 and the altar was detached about 90 cm., thanks also to the interest of the parish priest of that time Don Ferdinando Novella, the frescoed wall has always remained behind this golden altar.
As mentioned in the work of Geronimo Raineri (9) together with Dr. Piero Gasco and Renzo Bongioanni they took numerous photographs of these paintings, and the few images that appeared in the above mentioned article allowed, for the first time to provide an evaluation of Maestro Antonio's art.

The frescoes by Antonio Monregalese in the Church of Montata, now a cemetery chapel, by Molini di Triora cover the whole wall of the altar and the ogival vault of the presbytery.
The side walls, under the shawl, and the triumphal arch above the current span, most likely conceal other paintings.

The part of the altar, 4.90 m long at the base, carries a painted plinth depicting a crenellated wall up to 1.20 m high from the floor.
Above this, for a height of 1.90 m., there is a band with two side panels, which, even if very ruined, allow a glimpse, on the left, of "The Flight into Egypt", and on the right "The Adoration of the Magi".
In the centre is painted a polyptych surmounted by the characteristic Gothic triangular spires, with the Christ of Piety (fig. 3)
in the central tympanum some saints in the others (St. Anthony Abbot).
In the central panel is portrayed the Virgin and Child (fig. 4), on the left S. Lorenzo and S. Giovanni Battista, on the right S. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Stephen.

In the semicircular bezel, 2.60 m high in the middle, the Crucifixion is represented.
In the centre the figure of Christ (fig. 4) dominates the crowd below, with the grandeur of his stature.
The angels in flight collect the blood coming out of the wounds, and while an angel welcomes the soul, a little naked little body of the good thief, a devil rips that of the bad thief from the mouth.
The Sorrowful Virgin is supported by the Pious Women; Magdalene is kneeling at the foot of the Cross, with her blond hair scattered on her mantle, while John is standing upright behind her.
The Longino with joined hands and the crowd of soldiers, Jews and knights, dressed in sumptuous medieval costumes, rich in brocades huddles around the cross.
Among these stands out the figure of the knight who announces: Vere filius Dei erat iste .
In his studio Raineri has described this great scene in a particular way because if he refers to the Italian tradition of the Crucifixion with multiple characters as opposed to the French tradition reduced to the essential characters of the Passion: Christ, the Virgin and St. John, however, it is in the costumes of the Pious Women of the Virgin and in the gestures of the crowd itself, she feels the echo of the Provençal manner alive.
The sails of the ogival vault carry the images of the four Evangelists in round medallions.
Embedded in a large and accurate frieze there are another 12 smaller medallions with figures of saints.
The frieze, also shown on the ridges, crosses in the centre of a large rose window divided into geometric segments.
Two white rectangles at the sides of the central polyptych bear the following inscription in black semi-gothic characters:

            [M] CCCC o XXXV die
            [n]ovenbris hoc opus factum
            [fuit] a tempore massarum venerabilis domini
            petri canis laurencii odi diti

            buzhacarinii anthoni robaudi
            atque manfredi caponi -
            anthonius de montisregalis pin.xit. (3).

Even today the characteristic function of Good Friday of the "dropped from the Cross" is still in force. when Christ, after being laid down from the cross, is carried along the streets of the village.
We still remember the tradition of the "tour of the virgins", pious women who in the days around two November recited prayers, around the perimeter of the church.

In recent years the church has undergone restoration work, which was completed in spring 2014, where the faithful were able to appreciate the outcome of the complex restoration work on the external walls, the internal walls and vaults of the nave (which have been demolished, recovering the exposed wooden roof), the roof and the bell tower.
As part of the restoration, a large arch between the presbytery and the nave was also brought to light, with a fresco of the Annunciation, known from documentary sources but obliterated for a long time by the curtain walling operated between the 19th and 20th centuries.

Because of these restoration works, in the past years the rite of Jesus' descent from the cross took place in the Oratory of St. Bernard Abbot; since the end of the works the centuries-old tradition has been resumed and it took place at the Sanctuary with a subsequent procession to the Parish Church.
This rite is celebrated in a similar way in some countries of the Province of Imperia and not only, in fact the Franciscan Friars also hold it in a similar way in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Therefore it is not excluded that in the territory of the High Valley of Argentina in the middle of the sixteenth century there were spiritual sons and daughters of St. Francis who had a convent in Triora to introduce this custom in our parts.
The rite is very much felt by the faithful, with the children of the village dressed as little angels around the altar, as it was once used, and is accompanied by the parish choir that performs medieval songs of the passion, using "period" musical instruments, some wind instruments horns and sea shells ( which in some villages are called "Lumasse de Ma" that is Sea Snails and they certainly fit well in Molini famous also for the snail festival ) and some percussion instruments, the tabulæ qua Taabacche consisting of a table with two revolving handles that produce a remarkable sound.


(*Wikipedia website
(*Cultura in liguria
(*Riviera 24


Sanctuary Madonna della Montà
18010 - Via Dietro 3 - Molini Di Triora
(IM) Italy