The Museo d’Arte Sacra (Museum of Sacred Art) came into being through the joint efforts of the Municipality of Longiano and the Diocese of Cesena and Sarsina. It was officially inaugurated on March 18, 1989, and is located within the Oratory of S. Giuseppe Nuovo, a splendid ecclesiastical structure, still consecrated today, situated along the central Via Borgo Fausto close to the bulwarks of Castello Malatestiano.
The Museum collects and houses important works of art as well as numerous precious sacred items, such as furnishings, , vestments, relics and votive objects. Thanks to sustained collaboration between the Municipality, Diocese, Parish and numerous volunteers from Longiano, the Museum has achieved significance both in terms of the quality and quantity of its collection. The exhibition indeed provides historical evidence of the strong religious tradition of Longiano and its surroundings, founded on the three convents and various churches of the area as well as on the daily practice of its humblest inhabitants.
Paintings of note include the “Assumption of Mary and Saints Anthony the Great and Jerome,” attributed to the painter Giovanni Battista Barbiani (1593 -1650) of Ravenna, a work that came from the destroyed convent of the Hieronymites; the same convent perhaps also provided the “Crucifix between St. Jerome and a Nun,” a work from the early 17th century by an unknown painter; the portrait of Francesco Manzi, archbishop and papal legate to Avignon; a black, archaic Virgin by an unknown artist and of uncertain date (probably 16th century), a work from the Oratorio della Vergine di Loreto; and, finally, “St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata,” an anonymous work.
Some of the works have been restored thanks to the contribution of private citizens, who have also granted the museum some articles relating to local worship on “perpetual loan.” These items include lovely ex-voto objects, such as figurines of the Virgin and saints. Other precious objects are preserved in the glass display cases: a tabernacle, chalices and other ritual items from the Parish, as well as a red and golden silk cope and an embossed silver pyx used by Pope John Paul II on a visit to Romagna.
Another important purchase is connected with the dramatic period of the retreat of the Germans in World War II: a canvas of the Virgin from the early twentieth century was returned by the widow of an English soldier following his death.
Also of note are the precious benches with backrests decorated in tempera commissioned by the aristocratic families of Longiano in the 18th century, and the 14th-century bell from the church of Montilgallo.
The Museum further holds relics of the body of the martyred St. Valerius in the altar.
Another important piece is the 15th-century icon of the Weeping Virgin, which is considered miraculous and was cited a number of times by Oriana Fallaci in her posthumous book Un cappello pieno di ciliegie (“A Hat Brimming with Cherries”).
In 1996, following the retrospective of sculptor Ilario Fioravanti of Cesena at the Fondazione Tito Balestra, the museum acquired the important group of sculptures in polychromatic terracotta, entitled “Lament for Christ” (1985).
L’Oratorio di San Giuseppe Nuovo
This oratory dedicated to St. Joseph is situated along the central Via Borgo Fausto close to the bulwarks of Castello Malatestiano. The Oratory was built at the behest of the Confraternity of the Agonizzanti, also known as that of St. Joseph. The structure dates to 1703; the project was first attributed to Pier Mattia Angeloni of Cesena and later to Giovanni Masi. The first phase of construction is believed to have ended in 1728. Of note is the noble harmony of the building, which closely adheres to a Greek cross design. The brick façade has been well conserved; the portal is nicely balanced with respect to the ovals above, and the windows are provided with fine wrought-iron gratings.
Of note is the rich and elegant decoration of the interior: the ornamentation and stuccos effectively highlight the architectural elements, framing the rooms in a sumptuous array of shells, mascaron ornaments, capitals and spirals intertwined with flowers, fruits and angelic cherubs. The artist behind this decorative program is Antonio Trentanove of Rimini, who from 1789 to 1791 completely redesigned the stucco ornamentations, which were executed on site by skilled local artisans. This is the origin of the statues of three theological virtues–Faith, Hope and Charity–and of one of the cardinal virtues–Justice–as well as of the altar festoons and the radial stuccos of the domes, brought together at the top by golden dove in wood, the consummation of what is perhaps the best preserved evidence of late Baroque (18th-century) architecture in southern Romagna.
The three large altarpieces are the work of Antonio Zanchi, the favorite student of Gian Gioseffo Dal Sole. The central altar shows “The Crossing of St. Joseph,” while the two lateral altars depict the “Virgin and Child with Saints Francis Xavier and Francis of Paola” and the “Angels Holding up the Medallion,” which encloses a 16th-century fresco of the Virgin and Child by an unknown painter. A nice view of Longiano opens up in the lower portion of this painting, which is notable for its elegance and effective formal design.
Longiano is once again depicted, this time in greater detail, in Giuseppe Rosi’s painting “The Martyr St. Valerius” (1748). This work provides a more complete view of the town, permitting the viewer to recognize several places and buildings still extant today: the Oratory itself as well as the Castle, the Convento del SS. Crocifisso and the Collegiata di S. Cristoforo. Noteworthy in this painting are the olive trees behind the Saint which still today characterize the surrounding valleys.
A final work to be noticed among the paintings of the Oratory is a “Stations of the Cross,” commissioned by the Abbé Count Paolo Emilio Manzi (Longiano, 1705-1782).
The Museum is open Saturday, Sunday and Holidays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Groups and students can arrange visits to the Museum outside of these hours with prior reservation.