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SAN GIORGIO DELLA RICHINVELDA
It is the main village and seat of one of “the most ancient and earliest churches constituted in the diocese” (Degani) dating back to the period between the invasion of the Goths and the decline of the Lombard rule. It is mentioned in a document of 1186, but the territory is believed to have been inhabited since Roman times. Remains of Roman settlements have been found outside the village.
As far as the name is concerned it very likely dates back to the Lombard period, when the worship of the saint knight, St. George, achieved great popularity in Friuli. This is also confirmed by the place name “Richinvelda”, which consists of the Lombard name “Arichis” and the German one “Wald” (wood).
A mainly agricultural village, it has slightly been affected by the great history except for the cruel assassination of the Patriarch of Aquileia Bertrando of St. Geniès in 1350, which took place at the Richinvelda. This has not prevented the community of S. Giorgio and of the other hamlets which nowadays form the municipality from taking part in the long transformation of Friuli in the centuries following the first Millennium up to the present. The works of art which have been handed on make us aware of the economic and social ardour of the past and of deep popular piety.
The Parish Church
The parish church of S. Giorgio (fig. 1) reflects the culture of the 19th century, like many others of the nearby villages, and proves that 1800 was the century of impressive structural changes.
The building was designed by Girolamo D’Aronco from Gemona, skilled builder of churches in Friuli, with interventions of Antonio Pontini, art consultant and designer. The building designed by D'Aronco met the requirements of Neo-gothic style, which was establishing in Friuli and saved only some fragments of the previous building. The works of reconstruction started in 1885 when the facade was completed, then they slowed down until 1894 when they were resumed and completed. Little is known about the former parish church except for an inscription cut on the pilaster on the southern side of the building which is confirmed by documents of the parish archives: BUILT IN THE 9th CENTURY / THIS CHURCH / WAS REBUILT / BY THE END OF THE 19th CENTURY. And little is known also about the subsequent works to the building, at least until the date normally read as 1424, marked in the third small arch of the top-moulding on the south wall, next to the bell tower. The date is confirmed by the documents mentioned above, which state that the church was rebuilt between the 14th and 15th centuries and modified several times. In the 17th century the choir was enlarged by adding the apse.
The facade has a central rose window between two big windows and a moulding with small arches topped with a cross and two pinnacles on the sides. In the tympanum above the portal St. George is represented in high-relief on a horse with spear and armour, while fighting against the dragon, as a symbol of the fearless faith which triumphs over the evil (fig .2).
St. George also appears on the 16th century relief, expressive but partly worn by time, on the tympanum of the southern portal, which originally constituted the main entrance to the church. It is in the style of Lombard sculptors.
The interior, fairly wide and covered by a trussed roof, has a nave and two aisles on both sides. A painted Gothic arch and three steps lead to the presbytery, covered by a cross vault and lit by the windows on the side walls, where a wooden choir is set.
Noteworthy in the interior is the baptismal font (1589) with a wooden covering topped by the statue of St. John the Baptist of a later date (fig .3). To the same century belong the holy-water stoup set on the right of the main entrance and the one opposite the entrance of the southern side. The small holy-water stoup on the northern wall dates back to 1600.
In the same century (17th) a new stone high altar was set (fig. 4). In 1787 it was completed by the tabernacle and probably, by the frontal decorated with polychromatic marbles. In the second half of 1900 on the sides of the tabernacle two wooden statues representing St. Lucy and St. John the Baptist were placed..
In the aisles some altar are placeds: one dedicated to St. George fighting against the dragon (first half of 1900), one dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary of the 18th century on the left wall, and one dedicated to St. Joseph, (rebuilt after World War I with salvaged material) on the right wall, opposite the altar of the Virgin.
The frescos on the side walls and on the presbytery are by Francesco Barazzutti from Gemona, who worked in S. Giorgio in 1898, and was one of Girolamo D’Aronco’s friends. In the nave Barazzutti painted Angels with scrolls containing Latin quotations from the Psalm, and the Gospel and the Apocalyptic Lamb, symbol of Christ the Saviour. In the moulding with suspended arches, he painted symbols of Christ, alternated with decorative motifs. In the tympanum above the side doors on the right he represented St. Paul with sword, the instrument of his martyrdom and, on the left, St. Rocco, the saint from Montpellier, patron saint against the plague. On the triumphal arch there is a fresco of Christ among two Angels holding scrolls (fig .5).
The intrados is decorated with Angels, while on that of the apse the Magdalene and the theme of the Education of the Virgin Mary are painted. In the cross vault of the presbytery saints and religious men are represented: St. George, patron saint of the church (fig. 6); St. Stephen, protomartyr of the Christian church; St. Isidor farmer and the Bishop Bertrand from St. Geniès: at his back a landscape with the small church of S. Nicolò and the memorial stone erected on the place of his assassination can be recognized. Near the Patriarch a putto holds two coats of arms: the one on the left is the emblem of the Patriarchate of Aquileia with a golden eagle on azure field; the one on the right shows the coat of arms of the St. Geniès family. The dove frescoed in the centre of the vault in the apse represents the Holy Spirit.
The church has an organ (fig. 7) made by Beniamino Zanin, member of a famous school of organ makers from Camino di Codroipo. It was inaugurated on October 7, 1900.
After the earthquake of 1976 the church has been restored.
Villa Pecile (fig. 8), a palace belonging to a building complex probably dating back to the first half of 1700, represented for more than a century the core of the village of S. Giorgio della Richinvelda.
The construction belonged to the Leoni family who had lived in Venice from the 16th century, till Giovanni Battista Leoni moved to Friuli being conferred the title of Marquis of S. Gallo di Moggio. In 1841, with the death of the last member of the family, the dynasty ended and in 1851 the whole property was acquired by Gabriele Luigi Pecile, a leading figure in Friuli during the 19th century, who entrusted his son Domenico with the management of the farm.
It was the beginning of a period of renaissance with profound innovations and experimentations of new farming techniques, and the existing building complex was enlarged and adjusted to meet the requirements and economic aims of the owners.
The architectural structure includes the villa, home of the family, the service quarters (the northern one, for the farming and administrative activities; the western one, house for the farmers), and the chapel, a place of worship, which opens in the street; all this is surrounded by a large area which, in the past, also included the kitchen gardens and the garden, with rare essences and flower-beds.
The chapel (fig. 9), built in 1732 as stated in a document of the time, consists of a hexagonal room with a rectangular presbytery and a small bell tower with four double lancet windows. Doors and windows are edged in stone and the floor is in the Venetian manner. In the facade the tympanum bears the coat of arms of the Leoni family, the noble family who first lived in the villa. It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and it preserves in the altar a magnificent bas-relief, a unique marble altar-piece with the Holy Trinity, the sole example in Friuli: “it shows the images of Christ and of God the Father placed on axis that radiate from a central point where a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, is placed; the figures are surrounded by heavenly clouds and angels. The uniform whiteness is broken by the delicate colour notes of the frame made of yellow marble and by golden rays” (P. Goi).
The altar-piece, of high stylistic quality, is attributed to Giuseppe Torretti (1661 – 1743), great Venetian master of the 18th century who worked for the Manin in Udine and Passariano with highly refined sculptures and bas-reliefs.
Villa Pecile is private property and is not open to the public.