The restoration of the Church of San Giuliano

Written by  Valentina Lapierre
Thanks to the Fondazione, Ferrara regains a fifteenth century jewel
On 13 June 2006 the former church of San Giuliano was finally returned to the Curia of our town, thanks to a generous donation from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara. The Fondazione put up the necessary sum to buy the building at the liquidation auction in which it was offered for sale.
This graceful building was erected in 1405 through a donation from Galeotto degli Avogari, who wanted to rebuild the previously existing church dedicated to San Giuliano in the vicinity of today's former stock exchange.

The church and a number of other buildings had been demolished in 1385 by the Marquis Nicolò II when the Castle moat was excavated to contain the risk of public unrest. An indelible reminder of these old events is inscribed in the epigraph visible on the side of the church.
It has traditionally been thought that the Avogari family's hereditary rights over the church ended in 1616 with the death of the family line. The church was closed to religious use in 1796 when the French invaded Ferrara and suppressed various religious orders, confiscating their estates, and after some years was purchased by the priest Don Pietro dalla Fabbra, who saved it from despoliation and possible demolition. Subsequently it was inherited first by Don Santino Fiori and then by Cardinal Luigi Giordani.
The building was restored in 1895. A second restoration was carried out in 1957 by Carlo Savonuzzi on behalf of the Giordani family, on the occasion of the permanent transfer of use to the Press Association, which was joined in 1971 by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre whose emblem is still visible today above the main door. In 1972 it was sold to Monsignor Mariotti and the rest is recent history.
The architecture of the church is not in the Ferrara tradition, and some scholars have suggested that it may be the work of a Venetian architect, given the similarities between the main door of San Giuliano and the decorative arch detail above the door of the Corner family chapel in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, in Venice.
The two pillars on either side of the main door are topped by two spires in a facing brick, smooth and interspersed with a subtle masonry pattern. The Angel of the Annunciation tops one spire and the Virgin the other, while in the centre, above a spire symmetrically decorated with foliage in the pure Gothic flamboyant style, there towers the benedictory figure of the Eternal Father. Beneath the central rose window there is a marble slab, traces of the original colouring of which are still visible, showing Saint Julian about to meet his destiny: it is said that Saint Julian killed his parents before embracing Christianity. Saint Julian the Hospitaler is the patron saint of inn keepers and hoteliers.
The church originally contained many other decorative features, some of which can still be seen inside. Over the first altar on the right there is a canvas by Bartolomeo Solati depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew, protector of fish-mongers, while on the opposite side there is an altarpiece attributed to Tommaso Malmignati, depicting the patron saint of butchers or Saint Luke writing the Gospel before the Virgin.
Above the main altar is a Saint Julian by Giacomo Bambini and Cesare Cromer. The second altar on the left was dedicated to goldsmiths and silversmiths, whose patron is Saint Eligius. The altar piece, featuring Saint Eligius distributing his goods to the poor by Giovan Paolo Grazzini, was originally over the main altar and was surrounded by nine small canvases depicting the Miracles of Eligius executed by Scarsellino. Among these, two have been recovered to the city heritage: The Exorcism of a Woman possessed by Demons and The cure of a cripple were acquired by the Fondazione some years ago; while the seve remaining have been dispesed in unknown private collections. The ceiling is covered with frescoes depicting the Virgin in Glory with Saints Julian, Eligius, Andrew and Luke painted by Ettori and Baseggio in the eighteenth century.

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