Monteleone: tra Rito & Mito

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Church of San Giovanni Battista

Typology: Village church
Chronology: XIV-XVIII century
The Church of San Giovanni Battista, founded by Napoleone Tiberti in the early fourteenth century with a Hospice and a female House of  St. John order, is the location of the Buona Morte Confratenity (whose wooden sculpture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the Dead Christ is in San Francesco).
It contains works and stucco of the XVIII century. Near Porta di San Giovanni or Spoletina there is the Church of San Giovanni Battista of Monteleone di Spoleto. Founded on the principles of the fourteenth century by Napoleone Tiberti of Monteleone, the outbuildings (the Hospice and the female House of  St. John order) are sold to individuals in the sixteenth century. The church is granted to the Spoleto Cathedral and from the seventeenth century it becomes the seat of the Buona Morte Confratenity, whose sculpture of the Dead Christ of the XVI-XVII century is exposed in San Francesco. On the prospectus there are three heraldic shields (the central one is probably the symbol of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem). Rebuilt after the earthquake of 1703, the interiors are characterized by an eclectic taste. It keeps some eighteenth-century ornaments, such as fake stucco curtains on a transverse arch (with skull, crossbones and the inscription "SODALITIUM MORTIS") and the processional picture of Madonna della Misericordia in the apse (festivity day on September 4th).

Near Porta di San Giovanni or Spoletina there is the fourteenth-century church of San Giovanni Battista, which is initially attached to a monastery, then replaced by the eighteenth-century Rinaldi-Bernabei palace. Born as a suburban complex, it is later incorporated (in the fifteenth century) in the last defensive wall, which closes the new village or the so called Terziere di San Giacomo. The building, characterized by a  rectangular façade, is in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and today has three doors, the central one is characterized by a Agnus Dei in relief. Three heraldic shields are exposed in the middle part of the prospectus, the central one is crossed and the two on the side are divided in four parts and arranged in symmetrical position (alternating rows like a chessboard). The first is likely to be the symbol of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (silver cross on a red field), while the other two twins coats of arms are still to be identified. The founder of the structure is the friar Napoleone Tiberti of Monteleone, from 1330 to 1364 Jerusalem Prior in Venice, where he establishes the St. Catherine Hospital. In the homeland he leaves trace of his prestige by erecting, in the first decades of the fourteenth century, the church dedicated to St. John, with annexed the hospice and the female House of St. John Order, the latter temporarily granted by Tiberti to the nearby Monastery of St. Catherine during its renovation. The establishment and the priory, which survives until after the mid-fifteenth century, is certainly the result of a personal initiative, meanwhile the hospice arises from a general policy of expansion and strengthening of charitable structure of the Hospitallers.
In 1465 the church of "San Giovanni al Borgo" is entrusted to the rector of the disappeared Church of San Pietro, Don Virgilio Civitella. In the early sixteenth century the complex finally loses its importance. The adjoining hospice-convent is sold to private and fractionated, while the church, turned into a mere ecclesiastical benefit, without the oblige of residency requirement and care of souls for those who are invested in it, is granted to the Chapter of the Cathedral of Spoleto. From the seventeenth century, after long-standing disputes with the Chapter of the Cathedral (recorded also by Lascaris in 1712), the Church of St. John becomes the seat of the Confraternity of Buona Morte of Monteleone, of which there is a rich fund documentary, which covers the period of time ranging from 1807 to XX century. The documents, found in 1890 by the Congregation of Charity, are currently preserved in the municipal historical archive. The Confratenity of Buona Morte  preserves the sculpture of the Dead Christ of the XVI-XVII century, exposed in the convent of San Francis. The wooden work, life-size and now missing an arm, was carried in procession on the day of the Good Friday. The movement of the hair and the loincloth of the Redeemer is fascinating, forming three special waves. The church was rebuilt after the disastrous earthquake of 1703. The single nave hall is marked by transverse and longitudinal arches, which support the roof in vaults; the semicircular apse is covered by a spherical cap. It is characterized by an eclectic style, with bright colors and columns painted in faux marble and it preserves some stucco with eighteenth century architectural form. In the middle aisle the transverse arch is decorated with a curtain in stucco, whose center is decorated by a skull, crossbones and with the following inscription "Sodalitium Mortis", certifying the affinity with the Confraternity. In the apse there is a processional framework with an exuberant golden wooden frame, which contains the small eighteenth-century painting of Madonna della Misericordia (the festivity on September 4th), with golden crowns on the heads of the Virgin and of the Child. A rich golden frame of the eighteenth century surrounds the door of the Eucharistic tabernacle, while in the apse space ex voto hearts in silver are exposed. In 2010 the left wall of the nave the memory of P. Pietro Iachetti (1836-1901) of the Order of the Minor Friars is affixed, a missionary in North America over the last decades. Sculptures, wooden processional crosses, Via Crucis paintings and eighteenth-century painting of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (signed by Luigi di Montefalco), adorn further the building. For a short time on the high altar it is set a painting, now lost, which documents the temporary association with the cult of St. John the Baptist of the devotion to the Evangelist. In the counter and on one of the side walls, traces of an older wall decoration are recently revealed.