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FariglianoSOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS

Having left behind the vague slopes of the Mondovì hills and heading down the valley road that follows alongside the Tanaro river bed, one begins at first to detect the outline and then to appreciate the imposing Miocenic marlstone cliffs referred to as the "Langhe". Their powerful presence can be felt at once, making a decisive visual and emotional impact..
The flanks of the cliffs are dotted with little hamlets that have risen up in proximity to the river, a little above the course of the waterway, perched almost like guard posts on the ramparts of the Langhe territory that begins here and seems in places to loom over them.
The towns of Bastia, Clavesana, Farigliano and Monchiero parade by, alternating at regular intervals with the erosion furrows carved into the grey-blue tuff stone, that are so characteristic of this landscape. The land is in part designed by man, with vineyards and cultivated fields, and in part still wild and "natural", spotted with little woods or narrow sinuous recesses that seem to cut deeply into the flanks of the hills, where few human feet have tread.
Metaphorically speaking, this area forms the eastern border to the vast Cuneo plain, snaking along the edge of the Tanaro river and enclosing it like a giant seam. Beyond the river the "Langhe mountains" begin to rise up. This hilly land was in fact considered mountainous in past centuries, and many of its inhabitants were thought of as wild, reserved and odd.

Farigliano

These hill folk, living almost in a world apart, as it were, have always recognized, much more than the people of the plains, the importance of water, which flows so abundantly in the river bed below, but is so precious and rare in those high lands, where they grow grapes and raise goats.
For this and other reasons, these towns on the edge of the "seam" distinguish themselves as something apart. They are rooted in the hills but with their feet drenched in the river’s waters, with the wide plain’s horizon opening westward leading the eye to roam as far as the distant chain of the Alps.
Thus different and opposing realities unfold in front of and behind the villages of Bastia, Clavesana, Farigliano and Monchiero: a harsher, rougher and more mysterious land towards the Langhe, and a more gentle, civilized and generous terrain extending towards the hamlets in the flat plain.
Given their place in limbo between two opposing worlds, these villages necessarily became the ports and fords of passage, checkpoints and toll gates for the transit of men and goods, or places of rest where a journey could be broken up.
By times they came to be a border and were often contested and defended in the Middle Ages. These times followed on the equally long Roman period in which the distant authority of Rome had allowed the region to flourish peacefully, thanks mainly to agricultural activities, stock raising and trade…
It is therefore a land with a rich history, peopled since remote ages by inhabitants forced by times to defend these strips of land, passes, fords and roadways, against ferocious attacks and violent counter retaliations.
All of this was the norm, while famine, disease and epidemics were the order of the day and death meandered throughout the counties: the grim reaper was as constant a presence as the river, with its daily flow of water, always there but always variable, through full and dry spells, through heat waves and icy patches, dust and humidity…

Farigliano

FARIGLIANO BETWEEN HISTORY AND LEGEND

According to ancient stories, the Parish Church of Farigliano was built on the remains of a temple dedicated to Diana, the goddess of woodlands, hunting and moonlight. Considering the ubiquitous presence of the gods, one can well imagine that the scene of a brazen Acteon, having become enamoured at the sight of the chaste limbs of the goddess bathing in the river, and then being transformed into a deer only to be mauled by dogs, could easily have taken place right here at the foot of the Langhe, along the rustic shores of the Tanaro…
Such images immediately lend a noble dimension (though with a certain coarseness) to a piece of land. Other episodes, though not as "mythical", tell for example of how a group of rugged Sarmate soldiers sent by the Emperor Constantine to fertilize some uncultivated lands, formed the settlement of Forofulviem, which was later to become Farigliano…
Still other more captivating stories from classical mythology could be cited, giving the place name a connection with Giano, the god of "passageways" (who is also considered the male equivalent to Diana).
Following this transitional remark, it is possible to return to what was said earlier about towns on the border, or on this territorial "seam", a role that is clearly still occupied today by Farigliano, positioned as it is between the Langhe and the outlying plain.
It was thus an area of strategic importance since ancient times, despite its meagre population.
The importance of Farigliano in the early Middle Ages is testified by the town’s connection to the name of the Marquis of Saluzzo, who controlled the village for centuries and used it as a outpost for the their abundant lands both in the foothills and in the mountains proper.
The remains of an ancient castle mentioned in a document dating to 1210, stipulated by the Marquis Manfred II, describes it summarily as a fortified tower with adjacent palace.
The castle was later enlarged under the rule of Manfred IV, who apparently maintained a stable contact there, as suggested by the fact that he was actually buried in Farigliano.
His widow, Isabella Doria continued to live there, for another 15 years it would seem, without ever earning the favour of the townspeople, although it was her son Manfredo, referred to by some as the demon, or "scourge of God", who was even more feared.
The destruction of the castle however, took place at a later date, during the wars between the Emperor Charles V and the King of France Francis I. It was in fact in the middle of the 16th century that Lois de Boller de Riez, Governor of Cherasco gave the order to "pull down, dismantle and ruin" the building.
Despite the demolishing of the castle, described by some rare sources as being both strong and equipped while at the same time being a comfortable and ornate residence, a series of architectural fragments and decorative elements still survive as a testament to the noteworthy past of the edifice.
In the heart of the historical centre for example, in via Principe Amedeo, an elegant gothic mullioned window with two lights, now inset within a residential context that has been transformed over the centuries, constitutes an evocative trace of the taste for courtly living in vogue in the late Middle Ages in the area of Saluzzo.
The same sense of surprise and wonder arises upon visiting Ballauri house and admiring its monumental Renaissance fireplace. It is an imposing brick hearth covered with ornate stucco work and surmounted by a heraldic crest framed by and elegant leafy garland.
Once again this elegance is found in the marble aedicule preserved in the present day parish church of St. John the Baptist, which was rescued from the more ancient place of worship destroyed by an earthquake in 1887. This refined piece of sculpture, inspired by a Renaissance culture rarely seen in the Cuneo area, represents two kneeling angels holding up a large chalice in which the tabernacle is inserted

But Farigliano’s real treasure chest is conserved in a tiny country chapel nestled among the vineyards of the Langhe, and set on higher ground than the town centre.
The apse features images of saints, angels and decorative motifs that are striking for the chromatic exuberance, as well as the captivating and naïf style of the figures. One particular description of these frescoes links them to the name of Macrino d’Alba, but their attribution is more likely to be found in less cultured and formal circles, which should by no means diminish their value, however.
Ironically, it is in fact their very freshness and "comic-strip like" simplicity that grants them their power to astonish and attract, and to leave the viewer charmed.

Some of the compositional details, the colouristic palette and other close analogies would lead to the assumption of an artistic connection in the area of Piozzo, on the other side of the Tanaro river, where it would seem that the same hand worked on the decoration of the chapel of St. Bernard.
The presence of a certain "Frater Henricus MCCCCLI (sic)", is attested to by a signature on a more elaborate pictorial cycle than the frescoes of San Nicola, but the quality is uncannily similar. Following the rule of the Marquis of Saluzzo and the complex events of the period of the war between France and the Empire, Farigliano became part of the dominion of the House of Savoy.

translated by the British Centre - Mondovì