The monumental church of Santa Maria Assunta

is a neoclassical work by Francesco Maria Ciarafoni from Ancona. Gianfrancesco Albani is the one who between 1776-1783 decided to promote the rebuilding of the old church where he had received the minor orders.

The Church was built between 1776-1783 and consecrated on 8 September 1787.

The work carried out is evidenced by an important document drawn up by Telesforo Benigni, the then Superintendent of the Factory. In the report stipulated by him and addressed to Cardinal Gianfrancesco Albani about the progress of the work, he informs us that the Church appeared to him in a severe state of decay:

It was 200 years and more since the Abbey Church for its antiquity threatened imminent ruin. Monsignor Ludovico Cesi was conceived in 1575 to rebuild it from foundations, but its benefits did not exceed the sum of Scudi 200 which were used to prevent its fall.

[…] In 1639 Cardinal Francesco Barberini […] showed himself very willing to undertake the new factory; but he was dissuaded because of the very serious expenses, which needed […] to restrict himself to pledging a few hundred Scudi, and although he gave hope that he would erect the new Church, neither in his time nor in that of his successor, his nephew Cardinal Carlo Barberini nothing was renewed.

At this point Benigni tells us about the methods and the actors who contributed to its rebuilding in 1787:

[…] It was then, that seeing the ruinous state of his Church and the smallness of the same incapable of containing within it the numerous people of this land of his, he constantly resolved to have another built, which was a mark of himself, and for this effect, he gave his Orders Ministers of the Abbey to the great object to which it was to be dedicated, and it was recommended to them that they promptly put their hand to the great Opera. However, several years were spent in drawings and projects, of which the end was never seen, and once one difficulty was overcome, another far greater arose. […]

Adhering to Ms. Governor Laureati to the supreme commands of the ***** (not legible), and the prayers of many good citizens, he willingly accepted the Office, and among all the Drawings presented to him, he chose that of the Famous Mr. Francesco Ciarafoni of Ancona, who in the judgment of the Intendants was judged the best.

Therefore, Mr. Pietro Belli di Jesi, and as Minister of the Fabrica, Mr. Giuseppe Sala Napoletano, Uomo who in matters of economy, dexterity, and honor, has no one who surpasses him, demolished the ancient Church in 177 *. This was done with universal pleasure on August 16 of that year placed by order of V.E. the first stone of the new one from the late Sig. Giovanni Ferlichi Priest Barbarese, of whose excellent virtues it still sounds very clear fame.

To the main façade, Telesforo Benigni dedicates a well-detailed paragraph, which shows the neoclassical taste typical of the time:

Above the base along Palmi (feet) 55, and more from the ground palms 15, the Plinth of palms 4 remains ready, above which two large Doric pillars rise in front. Together these with two others, which are located in the corners of the facade, support the Architrave, Frieze, and Frame of the same Order, above which you can see a triangular frontispiece formed by a smooth tympanum with a majestic cornice around it. In the middle of the corner, there is a beautifully designed Acrotreio, which supports the Cross, which remains in the middle of two marble flames excellently worked by the late Signor. Benedetto Roldoni di Santippolito, who is the author eti *** (not legible) of all the other works of the Marbles, which are in the Church and the Bell Tower. Two bands annexed to the pillars, and a well-intended door in white marble, whose compartment is Palmi 10 in length, and Palmi 20 in height, adorned with its frontispiece and the beautiful window above, adorn the intermediate site. The whole facade is Palmi 55 wide and Palmi 90 high.

About the architecture of the Church:

The Body of the Church has the figure of a Parallelogram formed by two Paintings, and a half not including the semicircular shaped Chapel, in the middle of which is placed the High Altar of vague design, all set in gold, and marble respectively by the renowned Gilders. Girolamo Miliorelli, and Niccola G **** lli di Sanginesio, who was surprising. At the entrance to the door flanked by two large pillars, and two large niches, where two A **** of white **** are placed with their pedestal interspersed with other marbles of various colors, is located on the right, that on the left a space of Palmi 10 live from the Wall intended for two Confessionals. Above this Door, which is the main one of the Church, I have deemed it right and right to erect the large portrait of VE surrounded by a majestic cornice, above which there remains a very crappy Conchiglia di Stucco, from which two festoons in various flowers excellently executed by the Mr. Marco Monti of Milan.

At the bottom of the portrait read the Unwritten Inscription:


The person who orderded the realization of this church is Gianfrancesco Albani and his portrait is placed in his honor above the entrance to the church.

Gian Francesco Albani (Rome, February 26, 1720 – Rome, September 15, 1803) was an Italian Catholic cardinal and bishop. Gian Francesco Albani was the son of Carlo Albani, prince of Soriano and of the Holy Roman Empire. Great-grandson of Pope Clement XI and Cardinal Alessandro Albani, he was the nephew of Cardinal Annibale Albani and uncle of Cardinal Giuseppe Albani.

The Cardinal welcomes the faithful in this holy place and the position of the canvas, placed as a starting point, unfolds the architectural project in front of him, ideally dialoguing at the same height as the altarpiece of the Assumption, in mutual contemplation.

The Left niche
Trevisano, Jesus Christ at the Column

Sources tell us that it was Telesforo Benigni himself who bought this painting. The painting, beyond the refined workmanship and the beauty of the rendering, pays attention to this particular moment of Christ’s passion.

Continuing on the same side you can then admire the beautiful painting by Trevisano which I bought this Dominant at a very low price, representing Jesus Christ at the Column, which covers the miraculous Crucifix located in the Second Chapel belonging to Ven. Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, and which is also surrounded by the Mysteries of the Passion painted by the famous Sig. Giovanni Pirri, a very poisonous Painter from Ancona, of which I shall speak elsewhere.

The painting has been removed and placed at the top of the church.

The niche of Sant’Anna, dedicated to her in memory of the small ruinous rural church demolished for the benefit of the New Church. Here a painting by Domenichino was placed, in this regard, Telesforo Benigni says that:

[…] I thought I was dedicated to S. Anna, not only in memory of the small ruinous rural church demolished for the benefit of the new Church, but much more so that the obligations attached to the first could be satisfied in it, we see a beautiful Picture del Domenichino, in uci, in addition to the aforementioned Saint, the Blessed Virgin holding the Child who is reading in a Book supported by an Angel can be admired excellently painted, next to which there remain a Saint Jerome and other figures. Again this painting is adorned with a beautiful frame partly endorsed and partly marbled for use by Persichino, like the other of *****.

It also bears the description “Copy of Antonio Allegri known as Correggio, Magdalene with Child, an Angel and Saints Girolamo, Domenico, and Maria Maddalena. Sec XVII “.

The right niche

The canvas representing San Sebastiano dates back to 1644 and was made by Paolo Gismondi from Perugia. The dimensions of the canvas were enlarged in the 1700s when the painting had already undergone a chromatic blurring: the clear division is visible today. The cult of San Sebastian was dear to the city of Barbara: Telesforo Benigni always speaks about a rural church dedicated precisely to the aforementioned saint:

“To which in ancient times the people must have had a particular devotion, since, although not even the vestiges remain, nevertheless it goes every year, on the first day of the Rogations to commemorate it”

The Chapel, which is located after the aforementioned Statue, is dedicated to St. Sebastian Martyr, to whom in ancient times the People owed a particular devotion since even in the Territory, there was a rural church ****** to the same saint, of which, although not even the dressing gowns remain, this does not *** […].

To date, the painting is attributed to Paolo Gismondi, signed and dated 1644.

The Madonna and Child by Pomarancio.

In the fourth and last niche Chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas of Tolentino and San Telesforo Papa, which places B.V., San Antonio, and San Nicola di Bari, they are masterfully painted by an excellent hand, which is not known, although some attribute it to Pomarancio. In this Altar, thanks to the kindness of the Reigning Supreme Pontiff, there is the Plenary indulgence on the day of St. Telesphorus and for two days before the Feast.

The statues

Telesforo Benigni in his report to Cardinal Albani indicates the patrons of the statues as follows:


A. From the first straight-hand statue at the main door, which represents a S. Filippo Nerio, I will tell V.E. that both this one, like the other four, of which I will speak below, were worked by the sculptor Antonio Rodoloni Brother of the aforementioned, and that at the foot of the same I have had an inscription affixed to it in memory of the Lord. Francesco Guzzugli Tarducci, who contributed to the expense, and is the following.

It was therefore built by the client Francesco Guzzugli in 1784.

B. The Statue of San Carlo Borromeo was commissioned by Mr. Carlo Leli son of the late Signor. Pietrantonio Rodoloni, accompanied by an inscription:


Erected in 1784.

C. Then follows St. Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary. Mario Matteri, Prefect of Rome and Imperial Vicar, dedicated to his protector with ex-voto in the year 1784.

D. In San Girolamo, the doctor of the Church and his patron, Girolamo Galassini, Captain of the Infantry, had it built at his own expense in the year 1784.

E. Finally, we find San Emidio Pontifice of Ascoli, so that he may save himself and his homeland. Placed at his expense by Giuseppe Sala in 1783.

The holy Crucifix

Since the 1960s, the crucifix has been missing from the appointment on the first Sunday of May: it has not been publicly carried in procession since then.

In 1728 and 1781 the Holy Crucifix was carried by hand by the Priests on a pilgrimage to Loreto with a great crowd of people. In 1728, Alessandro Ruggieri di Jesi, participates in the procession as a spectator as nailed to the bed due to infirmity, he moved by a very lively faith, he had four men carry him on the public road and at the passage of the Simulacrum, he remained free from all evil and could freely return at home.

The thaumaturgical fame of dell’Immagine had already been widespread for centuries and the Abbey Church of Barbara was a destination for faithful coming from all over to ask for thanks and comfort.

In 1855 documents attest that Barbara was freed from cholera disease by the grace of the Holy Crucifix and that the following year grand thanksgiving celebrations took place. The processions continued until 1934 until the deterioration of the wooden figure no longer allowed it to be moved.

Every year it is exhibited to the faithful on the occasion of the feast on the first Sunday of May.

To date, the Crucifix is ​​a major absentee of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta as it is being restored by Doctor Silva Cuzzolin.

The Madonna dell’Olivo

The picture of the Madonna dell’Olivo is an image very dear to the city of Barbara of which the Church of Santa Maria Assunta preserves a copy, the original is now in the Church of Santa Barbara.

The history of this miraculous image already begins around the year one thousand: this pious and miraculous image was painted on the millstone of a mill in a land called Villa Sancte Marie which indicated a village built near the ancient Camaldolese monastery called the Old Convent. This village was overwhelmed by Villa Barbara and only the shrine of the Madonna remained in the middle of land planted with olive trees. Later, in 1692, the image was transported to the new church of S. Rocco and renamed Madonna dell’Olivo.

Under the reign of Napoleon, in 1811, the Church of San Rocco was also demolished and the Madonna was transported to a church dedicated to San Francesco in the current village Mazzini while the Minori Conventuali were forced to leave the country due to the Napoleonic decree. of the suppression of convents.

Following the fall of Napoleon, the image was venerated and transported to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta and placed on the main altar as a demonstration by all the people against the Jacobin power.

Finally, we invite you to go and see the image of the Madonna dell’Olivo which, since August 1812, has been permanently placed in the church of Santa Barbara where the inscription dated 1692 was also walled up.

The altarpiece of this church bears the title of the Assumption of Mary.

Historical sources attribute its realization with certainty to the painter Giovanni Pirri, and it is dated 1787.

The altarpiece is inserted in a classical-inspired architectural decoration with archaeological references and with the ancient scene-setting. Certain architectural elements such as the two Doric columns crowned by an entablature decorated with masks, an obelisk with a singular bell-shaped pyramidon, a small temple, and a building topped by a dome undoubtedly reflect the cultural interests of the Roman court at the time of Pope Pius IV Bramaschi, therefore oriented towards classicism.

The work consists of two superimposed orders: the earthly world below and the celestial overworld above.

At the center of her, The Virgin is recognizable thanks to her blue and pink robes; above it opens a gray cloud that divides the illuminated sky diagonally and from above by the divine glow.

The Madonna is represented with her arms outstretched to the sky, her face rapt in ecstasy by the divine intent on being carried by three cherubs and two little angels who intertwine with the movement of the drapery.

The lower part of the work features an empty sarcophagus, painted in perspective angled towards the viewer to suggest the depth of the scene. The apostles flock to a multitude of gazes and sensitive eloquence.

In the foreground on the left we see St. Peter, recognizable by his attributes: the bright blue mantle, the thick beard, the thinning hair, and the keys: he is in the act of genuflection with his hands extended in prayer to the Virgin.

At the feet are recognizable St. John the Evangelist: he is represented in his youthful aspects and wears a green cloak: he too is in the act of opening his arms, a symbol that stands here to underline his state of mind: bewildered and troubled he contemplates the assumption of the Madonna into heaven.

Behind St. Peter, the last apostle is intent on lifting a funeral sheet that covers the sarcophagus and which, as his facial expression suggests, finds it unexpectedly empty.

The setting and the background are decidedly suggestive and scenographic: overall there is a preponderance of the use of the gray color attributable to a sober classic Christian style.

Barbara’s altarpiece is a rarity. Pirri is the one who creates and signs this work, which is added to the vast artistic repertoire of the painter. We know that the artist is a native of Ancona, the painting he creates for Barbara derives from the direct commissioning of Cardinal Albani. The painter was the son and brother of two excellent professors of medicine and was one of the many artists who immigrated to Rome from the Marca – the Marches.

The Restoration promoted in 1990 by the parish priest Don Giuseppe Livieri at the expense of the local community, made it possible for the work to return to its original splendor: the chromatic texture of the background is very evident today. The timbres and the disharmonious combinations of the figures in the foreground are lit. The restoration was carried out by Nino Pieri under the direction of Dr. Claudia Caldari, inspector of the Superintendence for Artistic and Historical Heritage of the Marche – Urbino.

Analysis of the opera

The references of academic-classical addresses are predominant. The work can be inserted in the Roman artistic environment of the last twenty-five years of the 18th century where personalities such as Unterberg, Domenico Corvi, Tommaso Conca, Antonio Cavallucci, Giuseppe Cades, Pietro Labruzzi, Antonio Concioli, represent the characterizing currents of Roman painting over the years of the reign of Pope Pius VI (1775-1799). The compositional slant of the work, the choice of typology as well as the container and intense sentimental component derives from the Bolognese pictorial tradition of the time.

In this sense, Pirri’s painting is to be considered as not very original but certainly academic because of its clear, dignified, conventional way, the clear choice of drawing equilibrium. Overall, it appears to be easy to read, in tune with the requests of the patrons of the lands of the Marca, who continued to source altarpieces from the city of Rome.