After a great lunch we returned to the Piazza Garibaldi for the second part of our visit to charming Spilimbergo. From the Piazza we walked in the direction of the church of San Giovanni dei Battuti. This church dates from the fourteenth century. It was built in 1346 and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in 1361. The Battuti were a lay brotherhood that practiced self-flagellation. This practice explains their name: “the beaten”.
The bell-tower of the church from 1487 contrasts rather sharply with its Baroque façade and moreover seems a little high for the building, which is of fairly modest dimensions. Like the façade, the interior of the San Giovanni has been executed in Baroque style. The ceiling frescoes date from 1746. They were made by the rather obscure painter Giuseppe Buzzi and are based on sketches by the great Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770). Of much greater interest is the fresco that is part of the marble aedicule behind the altar. It dates from the fifteenth century, represents the Crucifixion of Christ and was made by un pittore d’oltralpe. This “painter from across the Alps” was no doubt a German master. The fresco was probably bigger once: parts of the figures around the edges seem to have been cut off.
A little further to the south stands the large church of Santi Giuseppe e Pantaleone. This church also has a connection with the aforementioned Battuti. It dates from 1326 or 1327 and is co-dedicated to Saint Pantaleon. This saint was said to have been the personal physician of the Roman emperor Galerius (293-311) before being martyred around the year 305. The dedication to Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe) is from a much later date, i.e. from a restoration in 1959-1961. Inside the church we find a couple of fifteenth-century frescoes. These are of mediocre quality and usually quite damaged. Largely intact is a fresco of Saint Christopher crossing the river with Christ on his shoulders.
The most prized possessions of the church are its fifteenth-century choir stalls by Marco Cozzi (ca. 1420-after 1485), a sculptor from Vicenza whose choir stalls in Venice I have previously discussed. The stalls are originally from the Duomo of Spilimbergo and have only been here since the aforementioned restoration of 1959-1961. Cozzi’s choir stalls were crafted between 1475 and 1477. There are 24 of them in total and they are beautifully decorated with both “ordinary” and inlaid woodwork. A lectern has been placed between the stalls, which was also beautifully done.
After our visit to the church we went east, followed the Via Roma and exited the town centre via the Torre Occidentale. A winged lion has been painted on the exterior of the tower, a visible reminder of the time that Spilimbergo was under Venetian rule (since 1420). On the Piazza San Rocco we could admire the milky-white church of the same name with a conspicuous façade. The church was unfortunately closed, but the street signs already gave directions to our next destination: the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli, Spilimbergo’s famous mosaic school where talented artists are trained to become makers or restorers of mosaics. The school was founded in 1922 and therefore celebrated its 100th birthday when we visited Spilimbergo.
It is usually possible to visit the school and to see the mosaicists in action. However, we went to Spilimbergo on a Saturday, so all we could do was go for a stroll in the garden of the complex. Fortunately there was still a lot to see there. Very well done was a replica in mosaic of the famous Guernica painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), made in 1937. In the garden we also find a replica in mosaic of Le vin du monde, a tapestry by the French artist Jean Lurçat (1892-1966).
Lastly we climbed a hill north of the Castello of Spilimbergo where the Palazzo di Sopra was built. This sixteenth-century “Palace from Above” dates from the Venetian era and is therefore once again decorated with a fresco featuring the Lion of Saint Mark. The building currently serves as the Spilimbergo town hall and could not be visited during the weekend. Just north of the palazzo is a vantage point that offers a tremendous view of the environs of the town. From here one can see San Daniele del Friuli (famous for its ham), Clauzetto and other towns very well. At the bottom of the hill is the Santuario Beata Vergine Maria della Mercede. Its exterior looks interesting, but it is probably closed most of the time.
- Bradt Travel Guide, Friuli Venezia Giulia (2019), p. 205-209;
- SPILIMBERGO (Pn), Chiesa di San Giovanni dei Battuti. – Archeocarta del Friuli Venezia Giulia (archeocartafvg.it)
- SPILIMBERGO (PN). Chiesa dei Santi Giuseppe e Pantaleone e annesso convento. – Archeocarta del Friuli Venezia Giulia (archeocartafvg.it)