01 Aug The Memory of Surface
Each historical building is the evidence of past cultures, and the small church of Beata Vergine delle Grazie in Casorzo hides something quite special about it. The walls are a diary of the village’s life throughout the centuries.
Since the thirteenth century, local monks contributed to lead religion and culture outside of convent walls: Monferrato was no exception. During the evangelic missions, monks built many churches and, in Casorzo, on a prominent hill rose St. George ‘s church. The church was later renamed Beata Vergine delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace), because of the believers’ devotion to the Virgin Mary. To the end of ‘800 the bell tower and the facade was added to the building, but the romanic body of the church is the same for over 700 years.
It is said that this corner of Monferrato “was painted in white” as local constructions were made in a white stone that seemed to shine above the heights of the rich woods. This fragment of story strikes me: it is easy to imagine the past pilgrim that, raising its head, saw this white church stand out among the green hills and the blue sky. Today this church is hardly used, yet the Beata Vergine delle Grazie has many stories to tell.
The most important and unique treasure of the church doesn’t lie inside. If you walk around the building you will notice the outer walls are covered with inscriptions and drawings.
These tell us the strangest events that occurred in the country throughout the ages, just like prehistoric graffiti. A diary scratched into the sandstone to which all citizens of Casorzo and passing travellers could take part in; it was a way to express oneself and leave a lasting mark in history.
Some graffiti tell us of the falling of snow, hail or exceptional storms, other of livestock diseases or plagues. You may notice the Christian fish symbol, the tracing of feet and drawings of wheels. One graffiti is reminiscent of the war against the nearby village of Rosignano in 1640, during the succession war in Monferrato. There are also particularly outstanding drawings, like a flying bicyle sketch (!) , funny short poems, and a perfect reproduction of a Casorzo cleaver, a tool used in fields to beat the grain, and also adapted as a weapon. The lasts graffiti are dated at the erarly years of 1900 and witnesses the events of the time, like King Umberto I assassination attempt and a renowned local bandit’s capture.
The essence of the church, with its most intimate and profound identity, was written by ordinary people over hundreds of years: for the village of Casorzo and its inhabitants, Santa Maria delle Grazie is memory written in stone across different eras. Now that the forests are gone, you will find vineyards, fields and roads, but the charm of climbing up to the church and reading a piece of the past through its walls is still alive today.
Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie
Address: Via Beata Vergine delle Grazie 1, 14032 Casorzo AT
Written by Costanza Gaia | Photography and editing by Monica Marescalchi