San Giovenale (1047-1121)
St Juvenal, the first Bishop of Narni, was buried here ca. 376. A site just outside the city walls was probably chosen because Roman law did not allow burial inside the city. St Maximus (died 416), St Juvenal's successor, is reputed to have built an oratory over the grave that was used for his own burial and that of later bishops, including St Cassius (died 558) and his wife Fausta.
Adalbert, Margrave of Tuscany stole the relics of SS Juvenal and Cassius in 878 when he sacked Narni; this was probably on his return to Lucca after he had participated in the Carloman's attack on Rome in his effort to force his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. Pope John VIII was captured during this attack and, having escaped, fled to Provence. Fortunately, the political situation eased when Carloman died in 879, and the Pope reached agreement with his successor, Charles the Fat. The stolen relics were duly returned to Narni. Those of St Juvenal were buried in a secret location, while those of St Cassius were displayed in the oratory that became known as the Sacello di San Cassio.
In 1047, work began the present church, which was built inside the city wall, so that the Sacello di San Cassio stood to the right side of its nave. Construction was interrupted in 1053 when the site was flooded. It seems from an inscription on the facade (see below) that the church was not completed until ca. 1121. Pope Eugenius III consecrated it in 1145.
The facade of the church (in Piazza Cavour) was remodelled in the mid 14th century, although the masonry from the three original portals was re-used. The architrave over the righthand portal is inscribed with the year 1121, by which time the construction of the church must have been largely finished.
Bishop Carlo Boccardi (died 1498) commissioned the portico (1497) from the Università del Muratori (stone masons' guild). This date is recorded in the inscription over the entrance to their chapel inside the portico on the right, which now serves as the baptistry. The arms on the frieze above the arches are those of the Cathedral Chapter, the City of Narni and Bishop Boccardi (whose tomb is in the right aisle - see below).
The campanile can be seen from Via del Campanile (see the Walk).
The nave and aisles have retained their original Romanesque appearance. They are separated by sandstone walls, each of which is penetrated by a colonade that incorporates eight Corinthian columns. A fourth aisle was added on the right in the 14th century to bring the Sacello di San Cassio into the main body of the church.
The polygonal apse was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1322. Traces of frescoes (early 15th century) attributed to the Maestro di Narni del 1409 survive in the chapels in its walls, but they are no longer visible. Cardinal Berardo Eroli commissioned the inlaid choir stalls (1474).
The sandstone pulpits (1490) at the end of the nave have interesting reliefs, depicting:
the Madonna and Child with SS Juvenal and Cassius (on the left); and
SS James, Peter and Paul (on the right).
The relics of St Juvenal were rediscovered in the rock behind the Sacello di San Cassio in 1642 and translated to a new site under the high altar. This led to the re-modelling of the crossing in the Baroque style in the period 1662-1714. The project received the energetic support of Cardinal Giuseppe Sacriponte in 1710, as part of his campaign for the beatification of the Blessed Lucy of Narni (see also the Cappella della Beata Lucia). The modification of the crossing involved the building of:
a new crypt;
the twin staircase with marble balustrades that leads down to it; and
the present high altar with its baldacchino.
The fresco (early 15th century) in a niche on the counter-façade, which depicts the Madonna and Child with angels, is attributed to the Maestro di Narni del 1409. It was executed over an earlier fresco of the Crucifixion. The niche was originally deeper, so only the lower half of a figure of the Redeemer survives on the upper surface.
The tomb of Bishop Carlo Boccardi (died 1498) is on the left wall of the 2nd chapel. (As noted above, he commissioned the portico, and his arms can still be seen above it).
The lovely Renaissance chapel that follows is the Cappella Vecchis della Santissimo Sacramento (1490). It has a coffered
ceiling and its walls contain gilded reliefs of Eucharistic subjects.
The tabernacle for the host is embedded in the back wall. The marble pavement in the bay outside this chapel originally extended throughout the church.
Continue past themarble screen across the entrance to the Sacello di San Cassio.
The panel (1470) of St Juvenal by il Vecchietta on the pilaster at the end of the colonade is said (somewhat improbably) to have been painted on the board on which the relics of the saint were returned to Narni from Lucca in 880. This panel was probably originally part of a polyptych.
Continue along the right aisle, past the Cappella della Beata Lucia in the right transept. The fresco (1517) in the niche on the left of the Madonna and Child is attributed to Bartolomeo Torresani. The figures of God the Father above and SS Anselm and Mark to the sides appear to be by a different artist.
Continue to the Cappella Nuova del Santisimo Sacramento (18th century), which was restored in 1967. The detached fresco (15th century) on the left, which is of unknown provenance, is attributed to Pierantonio Mezzastris and depicts the Pietà with SS Sebastian and Francis.
A damaged but historically important fresco (late 13th or early 14th
century) on the counter-façade depicts the Administration of Justice.
The altarpiece (1560) on the Altare di San Pietro (2nd on the left), which depicts the Consignment of the Keys to St Peter, is signed by Livio Agresti.
Continue past the side door to the monument to Pietro Cesi (1477), which is by a follower of Bernardo Rossellino. There is a fine marble effigy on the sarcophagus. The damaged fresco in the lunette, which depicts the Madonna and Child with angels, is the autograph work of the so-called Maestro della Tomba Cesi. [Pietro Cesi was a celebrated jurist who was appointed Senator of Rome in 1468 and again in the year of his death, 1477].
The monument (ca. 1600) to Bishop Erolo Eroli, just before the entrance to the Cappella della Consolazione contains interesting portrait.
The Compagnia di Sant' Antonio commissioned the polychrome wooded statue (1475) of St Antony Abbot enthroned, which is now at the end of the aisle, for the church of Sant' Antonio. It is signed by il Vecchietta and dated. The fresco (15th century) of St Lucy behind it (on the left wall) by a follower of Pier Matteo d' Amelia.
A fragment of a historically important fresco (dated 1236) of Christ of the apocalypse and the Madonna and Child enthroned survives among later frescoes behind the statue on the back wall.
Return to the walk.