Susa is an Italian town of 6 232 inhabitants in the metropolitan city of Turin in Piedmont. The city was founded at the confluence of the Dora Riparia river with the Cenischia stream in a strategic position for the control of the roads leading to the Mont Cenis and Monginevro passes. In 500 BC, when cities like Aosta and Turin had not yet been founded, in Susa there was a Celtic reality perfectly organized by Druid priests. Subsequently Romanized it had its maximum splendor with the peak of the Roman Empire. It followed a long decline until the rebirth, in the eighth century, under the dominion of the Franks. Being at the center of the paths and roads that led from northern Europe to the city of San Pietro, it was the first territory to be subjected to the Counts of Moriana in the eleventh century. After the unification of Italy, the province of Susa was incorporated into that of Turin.
For thousands of years it has been a crossroads of the various transalpine itineraries between Italy and France, and is characterized by considerable Roman and medieval monuments. It is located in the center of the homonymous valley of Susa. In ancient times it was the capital of the Reign of the Cozii, the starting point of the Via Domizia and the Via Cozia and stopping place of the Itinerarium Burdigalense and the Via Francigena.
About 53 kilometers west of the capital Turin, Susa is located in the final stretch of the flat Lower Susa Valley, at the confluence of the Cenischia stream with the Dora Riparia, where the Susa valley forks: to the north the deep inlet of the Cenischia valley, to the west, the elevation of the Alta Val di Susa Place strategic point of view from the road in this alpine field, being at the intersection of the routes, also exploited by ViaFrancigena, for the steps of the Moncenisio (via the Val Cenischia) and the Col de Clapier(via Val Clarea) both in the direction of Northern France, Montgenevre via the Upper Susa Valley, in the direction of Southern France and Spain, and Colle delle Finestre towards the neighboring Val Chisone.
The hill of the Countess Adelaide Castle dominates the historic center to the west, the rocky spur on which the Brunetta Fort stood on the north; to the north, Mount Rocciamelone stands out over the city, 3538 meters, which belongs to the territory of the nearby Municipality of Mompantero. The “Gorge” ends behind the city, a deep canyon where the Dora Riparia flows in the stretch between Exilles and Susa.
Susa and its valley were already inhabited in ancient times, as evidenced by the evidence dating back to the fifth millennium BC found in various locations. It was precisely, at the time of the reign of Donno and his son Cozio that the Segusino area experienced a period of particular peace and prosperity; Susa was the capital of a vast area that included large territories beyond the Alps, separated by the mountains but united by the ability of the two sovereigns, who were able to wisely govern numerous tribes of Celtic origin.One of the most important testimonies of the Celtic presence in the Valley, is the cup-shaped rock, on which “cupels” are obtained, hemispherical hollows connected by carved channels, on which animals were probably sacrificed in pre-Roman times.
It is difficult to establish when the city was first inhabited and the populations who lived there. Certainly among them there were the Ligurians and later the Celts arrived (about 500 BC) who merged with the first populations. Then came the Romans led by Julius Caesar who fought with the local populations and established a pact of alliance with Donno, their king, in order to guarantee a safe transit to Gaul for troops and goods from the passes of the nearby Colle Clapier and the more distant Montgenevre pass. The good relations continued for a long period, sanctioned by the construction of the arch of Augustus. The city was then called Segusium and was the capital of the Kingdom of the Cozii, in the province known as the Cottian Alps.
The arrival of the Romans was an epochal event for Susa that left very important traces. Among these the best known is the beautiful Arch (8th century BC) dedicated to Caesar Octavian Augustus. That of Susa is one of the four arches that in Italy are dedicated to the first Roman emperor; the others are located in Aosta, Rimini and Fano. Next to the Arch of Augustus you can admire another important testimony of the Roman world: the Aqueduct, (375-378 AD) of which today the two large arches remain, it probably fed, besides the baths, also the fountains of the City of Susa. Passing under the two openings, you can reach, with a short walk full of suggestions, the 2nd century AD Arena. which was restored to its former glory in 1961.
In the third century the city was equipped with a wall. Nevertheless it was besieged and burned by the troops of Constantine in 312. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476) a period of decline began for Susa. After the death of Odoacer, Susa became part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Theodoric. With the end of the Gothic War, Susa became part of the Prefecture of the Praetorium of Italy until it was conquered by the troops of Alboino, who annexed it to the Lombard Kingdom.
Piazza Savoia, the main square, was built over the ancient city, so much so that there are archaeological finds from the Roman era and the Porta Savoia from the 4th century. Taking advantage of the period of anarchy following the death of Clefi, the Merovingian Gontrano, king of the Franks of Orleans, defeated the Lombards, annexing Aosta and Susa in 575. Being important access points for Italy, Aosta and Susa always constituted a thorn in the side for the Lombards. Following the conquest of the Lombard kingdom by Charlemagne in774, Aosta and Susa followed the fate of the kingdom of Italy.
The Middle Ages are several monuments, such as the Castle of the Countess Adelaide, baptismal church of Santa Maria Maggiore with the connected buildings, the Abbey of San Giusto, the Convent of St. Francis and its cloister, the medieval arcaded houses, the house De Bartolomei, two towers in the center of the town. It was Napoleon who gave it the title of city. In 1854 Susa was reached by the railway, with the Turin-Susa line, inaugurated on 22 May and of which the head station remains almost intact. Between 1868 and 1871 Susa was an interchange with the Moncenisio Railway in Sistema Fell, which crossed the Colle at about 2000 meters and was part of the so-calledSuitcase of the Indies; all while the new Bussoleno-Modane line and the Frejus Tunnel were under construction, which favored the construction of the Railway Depot in Bussoleno rather than in Susa. In the historic center of the city there is an immigrant community from Paola, in Calabria, with which it is twinned.
Immediately before the year 1000, Arduimo il Glabro, Marquis of Turin, laid the foundations for the future of Susa and the Valley, controlling the whole territory up to the Monginevro pass. He was succeeded by his eldest son Manfredo, who then left the command to his son Olderico Manfredi, father of the Countess Adelaide and founder of the abbey of San Giusto, which stands near Porta Savoia. The marriage between Adelaide and Oddone di Savoia, celebrated in the Cathedral of Susa established the union of two noble families: that of the Savoy and that Arduinica linked to the emperor. Bond that determined the beginning of a dynasty among the oldest in Europe and that in 1861 brought about the unification of Italy with Vittorio Emanuele II.
The ancient castrum, formerly the royal seat at the time of the Cozii, became the residence of the local lords. You can then admire other important monuments of this era such as the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (11th century), the Cathedral of San Giusto (11th century) with its imposing bell tower, the Church of San Francesco (13th century), Casa De ‘Bartolomei (13th century), the private home of Arrigo De’ Bartolomei known as Cardinal Ostiense, a famous medieval jurist.
The economy of the city has always been based on the presence of transit routes: the Napoleonic road first, then the state roads, today the motorway and in a hypothetical future the high-speed line (TAV). Its position as a “transit city” has greatly affected its nature, especially in the last two centuries: from a normal village at the foot of the mountains, its economy was based on activities linked to the land, such as farming and agriculture.
However, major changes only occurred in the early nineteenth century, when the Napoleonic road was completed. The city thus became a very popular transit place and an obligatory stop on the way to France. The hotel and commercial activity developed: the continuous presence of soldiers, due to the proximity of the borders, contributed to the city’s economy until not so long ago. But with the development of the means of communication, and above all with the opening of the international railway line, efforts were made to make the city survive by opening a series of factories, among which the Vallesusa cotton mill and the ASSA steel mill stand out. Industrial production held the city providing several hundred jobs for nearly a century. The first half of the twentieth century ended not without problems, after the Second World War industrial activity embarked on a slow decline, thanks to a series of factors, common to the slow decline of industry in Piedmont and in Italy started in the early seventies and continues today.
With the advent of the post-industrial era, one after another all the industrial activities of Susa died, and the city found itself again having to look for a solution. Today most of the inhabitants of Susa work in the valley or in Turin, and every day they crowd the commuter trains that take them where there is work. With the opening of the highway, the city got rid of heavy traffic, but also of many of the occasional tourists (mainly French) who often met around the city in all seasons. Today tourism still exists and is important (also thanks to the carrying out of some events, including the Golden Chestnut, the Historic Palio of the Borghi di Susa and the raceSusa-Moncenisio), even if it is mainly occasional tourism.
In the last few years, the City of Susa has seen the development of some interesting sectors in the tourism sector with the Museum of Alpine Religious Art which promotes international exhibitions and conferences such as “Charlemagne and the Alps” (15 000 visitors) and in the 2008 “Alps to be discovered”. In addition, the redevelopment and pedestrianization of the historic city center, the rediscovery of the Roman temple, the renovation of the medieval castle, the first Savoy residence in Italy, will lead Susa more and more towards an excellent cultural tourist offer.
Susa has a considerable number of buildings and places of historical interest, especially when viewed in relation to the relatively small size of the town and two reference museums for the valley area, the Civic Museum and the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.
The Alpine town has a remarkable stratification of eras, with Roman artefacts still in excellent condition (Porta Savoia, Arco di Augusto, Roman Arena, Roman Walls), medieval urban houses, three religious complexes with different identities (the Cathedral of San Giusto – formerly Benedictine Abbey, the complex of Santa Maria Maggiore – Augustinian canonry leader of the Lower Valley, San Francesco, the first Franciscan convent in Piedmont), the Castle and the remains of a mighty Fort, the “Brunetta”. The city has been the subject of multiple studies by the Superintendencies, including the ancient underground passages present in private homes, often cited also in oral tradition by the inhabitants of Susa.
Borgo dei Nobili (13th century)
Outside the walls is the “Borgo dei Nobili”. It was largely inhabited by the nobility who came to Susa following the Savoy family. Romanesque and Gothic elements are still visible on the facades of the houses.
Borgo Traduerivi (13th century)
The village of Traduerivi, located outside the city walls, south-east of the city, between two rivers, Scaglione and Corrant (inter duos rivos) still retains a medieval aspect testified by the presence of two castles and a shelter dating back to 1300, when the Borgo was a fief of the Ancisa and De Bartolomei families. In the Colombera hamlet there are still traces of a palace with a crenellated tower, the residence of the aforementioned families.
Civic Tower (18th century)
Located on one of the two Roman towers forming Porta Piemonte, through which one entered the medieval “Borgo dei mercanti”.
Rotari Tower (14th century)
The construction of the Torre dei Rotari dates back to the century. XIV; it was built for defense and lookout purposes by the Rotari family from Asti. This building, which must have been very impressive, is in masonry, with a square plan, and of the medieval structures it retains only a few single lancet windows and hanging arches under the very deteriorated battlements.
Tower of the Parliament
The Parliament Tower is located in the commercial heart of the old Susa, in a corner of Via dei Mercanti (now Via Francesco Rolando). It is a massive and sturdy tower, now a little degraded, but you can still see two series of hanging arches, a light single-lancet window and, on the top, some battlements.
Roman Aqueduct (Terme Graziane) (4th century)
The majestic pillars from which the arches branch off rest on the remains of an altar of Celtic origin. Near the Arch of Augustus of Susa there are two arches built with limestone blocks: an erroneous attribution defines the Terme Graziane construction, referring to an inscription that named the baths restored between 375 and 378 by the emperors Gratian, Valente and Valentiniano and the aqueduct it needed. In the Middle Ages the two arches were incorporated into the defensive structures and connected to one of the towers of the walls. Only in the 19th century were they restored.
Celtic altar with cupels (7th century BC)
Facing the mountain also considered sacred by the Druids: the Rocciamelone. Excavated in the rocks of the acropolis of Susa it is possible to see the cupels: cup-shaped incisions, connected by channels that lead downwards, towards larger cavities. Their purpose is not yet clear, but they probably served as a sacrificial altar: the druids sacrificed animals and human beings on those rocks and based on the direction that the blood followed in the incisions, they drew auspices. Near the cupels there is a well dug into the rock, also dating back to the Celtic age. It was probably used by the druids to perform ablutions after the sacrifices.
Roman amphitheater (2nd century)
It rises just outside the town: here gladiator fights and hunting scenes called “venationes” took place. Commonly known as Roman Arena, it dates back to the II – III century. after Christ. It rises behind the Acropolis of Susa, in a natural basin well sheltered from the winds. Historians say it was abandoned as early as the fifth century; then slowly, over the centuries, the floods of the Merdarello stream that flowed nearby buried it under six meters of soil. Only between 1956 and 1961 was the amphitheater rediscovered, brought to light and even rebuilt, because the stone blocks of the steps had been dispersed by the floods.
The Roman arena has an ellipse shape of 45 by 37 meters, and is the smallest amphitheater of the Roman age present in Italy. The arena is surrounded by the podium, a masonry enclosure that was supposed to support the steps (it seems there were only three); inside a narrow tunnel is dug that connects four rooms, the carceres, where gladiators and wild beasts used to be before the shows. Under the steps you can also see a room used as a stable for the animals. The authorities generally stood on stands erected at the end of the minor axis. To the north – east of the amphitheater are the remains of a small circular building, perhaps the spoliarium, where wounded or killed gladiators were hospitalized. Some bronze decorations that adorned the Amphitheater are preserved in the Civic Museum of Susa.
Arch of Augustus (9-8 BC)
One of the best preserved arches in northern Italy, it has a single archway with semi-columns supporting an architrave with a figured frieze and an attic with an inscription that recalls the “foedus”, the “pact” that is, between Cozio, king of the Celts, and Caesar Octavian Augustus, first Roman emperor. It stands on the ancient road of the Gauls, next to the ruins of the “castrum” which was the seat of the Roman prefectural command. It was built in 9-8 BC. C. to seal the pact of alliance made with Rome and is dedicated to Augustus by Marco Giulio Cozio, son of King Donno and prefect of the 14 populations that made up the kingdom of the Cozii, on both sides of the Alps. Arco di Augusto: It is one of the most ancient arches of the Roman age and the most beautiful monument of the Valsusa.
In the fornix (8.85 m high and 5.86 m wide) the Rocciamelone is perfectly framed, a mountain over 3550 m high which dominates the city of Susa. It was considered sacred for the people of the city starting from the very ancient Druidic presence, and therefore the perfect framing of this mountain in the arch constitutes an ideal link between the Roman civilization and the previous one. It is built in white marble from Foresto, a town not far from Susa, and rests on a base of limestone blocks, lightened by two elegant and light pillars. The archivolt is supported by smooth pillars ending in columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals. Numerous holes are visible in the masonry due to the removal, already carried out in ancient times, of the metal clips that joined the large stone blocks.
This classical architectural scheme, very elegant and very precise and harmonious, suggests the work of a local architect who knew well the texts of the great Augustan architect Vitruvius. Very interesting is the frieze that adorns all four sides of the arch and illustrates the ceremonies that accompanied the conclusion of the pact between Cozio and Augusto. According to scholars, it is the work of local sculptors who, with a precise narrative concern, have recounted the sacrifice with some originality, Representation of the pact between Cozio and Augustus (opens in new window) typical theme of Roman art: for example, soldiers appear, usually excluded from this type of official work. The symmetry is rigid, and isocephaly is immediately perceptible (i.e. the equal height of sitting and standing figures, of men and animals…).
Park of Augustus
In the area where the forum once stood there is now the so-called Parco di Augusto, inside which there is a copy of the statue dedicated to the Emperor Augustus known as Prima Porta (which is kept in the Vatican). Inside the park there are numerous finds and remains of Roman historic buildings, capitals, columns, walls.
Porta Savoia or gate of Paradise (3rd – 4th century AD)
To protect the city of Susa from invasions, in the 2nd century AD it was enclosed (at least in part) with thick walls equipped with circular towers. On the different sides doors were opened and on the north – south side is Porta Savoia, consisting of a single archway. Originally it was also narrower, precisely for defense: in the evening, in fact, it was closed with a shutter, operated from that covered balcony overlooking the interior of the city. The door is connected to two circular towers, pierced by different levels of windows, which today are partially walled up.
On the west side of the wall there is Porta Savoia, made up of two imposing cylindrical towers whose openings are staggered, so as to allow defense on all sides. The interturrium has 4 orders of arched openings, also alternately staggered, located at the height of the corridors that connected the two towers. Following the remains of the walls and starting from the Castle, it is possible to follow the route of the defensive walls, built in haste in the third century AD by the Segusini, to defend themselves from the barbarian invasions. Starting from the Arch and the Castle, the walls connected to Porta Savoia, reached the Dora which they skirted and then, turning south-east, they reached Porta Piemonte (Clock Tower). From here they followed the current state road 24, until they reached via dei Fossali (present-day Corso Unione Sovietica) and then closed again at the Castle. In this way the city of Susa, in the shape of a triangle, was completely defended.
The walls were four to six meters wide and had an internal walkway to facilitate the movement of the soldiers involved in the protection of the city. The walls, built in the third and fourth centuries after Christ, were built “in sack”, that is with external walls in masonry and an internal area filled with filler material. When over the centuries the walls were demolished, many objects, even precious ones, of the Roman age were found, mostly in marble, such as inscriptions, milestones, fragments of sculpture… All material used and thrown in bulk, which demonstrates the urgency with which the walls had to be built.
Forte della Brunetta – Ruins (18th century)
The fortress, one of the most important military buildings of its time, was destroyed at the behest of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796 (Treaty of Cherasco). The Brunetta di Susa Fortress was undoubtedly something different from all the other Piedmontese military defensive constructions: it was not a simple fortification of walls, towers etc, but an entire rocky hill with difficulty and hardly shaped and transformed into more than eighty ‘ years of work, to meet the defense needs of the most important Piedmontese Alpine pass, the Moncenisio.
A pearl of the Savoyard fortifications: immense, imposing, impregnable; the place on which it was built was in fact chosen with extreme care and attention: a rocky hill overlooking the city of Susa, outside the range of any artillery and unreachable except through a narrow access protected by the Fort of Santa Maria (the oldest and still partly existing today). Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy jokingly called her “my bitter virgin” precisely to signify her absolute inviolability.
It became the destination of illustrious visits: the Tsar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, the King of Naples etc, all entranced and amazed by the imposing construction.
After about a century of continuous upgrading work started under the direction of the engineer Antonio Scaiola first, and then, subsequently, by Luigi de Willecourt, Giuseppe Ignazio Bertola (son of Antonio), Lorenzo Bernardino Pinto di Bari and finally Nicolis de Robilant, the fortress was almost totally destroyed following the armistice of Cherasco, which ended the Franco-Piedmontese war. The subsequent peace of Paris of 16 May 1796 imposed on the Savoy the demolition of the mighty Piedmontese defensive “barrier” towards France, including Brunetta.
Currently the entire site is privately owned: it includes an area of about 12 hectares in which there are orchards, vegetable gardens, woods, meadows and stables, immersed here and there among the ruins of that mythical military work that in the past was considered the most prestigious in Europe. For more information on the Fortress, we recommend reading “Il Forte della Brunetta” by Pier Giorgio Corino (Ed. Melli, 1999, Borgone Susa): the author makes us relive the construction and life of the Fort, accompanied by a rich photographic documentation of prints of the time. It makes us discover its complex structure divided into bastions, counterguards, ditches and casemates carved into the rock, with particular attention to both the strictly technical-military and the political-historical aspects.
Castle of the Countess Adelaide (11th century)
The construction date of the Susa Castle is uncertain, but it may have been built by the first rulers of this area and inhabited by the Cozi. The building underwent many transformations and as many vicissitudes, before becoming the home of the Marquis of Susa. Olderico was the first to establish his residence there but above all the Marquise Adelaide lived there, the most famous character of the millenary history of Susa, who raised his children here: Pietro, Oddone and Amedeo, who later became princes of the House of Savoy. The current appearance derives from the restructuring carried out in 1750 on the occasion of the wedding between Carlo Emanuele III and the Infanta Maria Antonia, while of the ancient medieval building there are only the mullioned windows and the machicolations (holes from which the stones were thrown) on the walls overlooking the historic center.
After being the home of Adelaide, the Castle was the home of its descendants, and between 1213 and 1214 it also saw the presence of St. Francis of Assisi, on his way to France. After the peace of Chateau Cambresis, in 1559, and the return of the Susa valley to the Savoy, the Castle hosted the meeting that sealed the peace. A peace that did not last long, however: the seventeenth century was characterized by war with France and the Castle once again became a place for negotiations. In 1629 Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu stayed there for a long time.
Gradually falling into abandonment, in 1806, with a Napoleonic decree, the Castle was taken away from the Savoy and entrusted to the municipality, with the obligation to open schools inside, and after 1814 it became the seat of the supreme military and political command. of the city and the valley. But it was the scholastic use of the building that lasted longer: over 150 years. A use that has significantly changed both the exterior and the interior of the building, which today houses the Civic Museum, the Library and the Historical Archives. Since the 1980s it has been the subject of restoration work.
Other military heritage
Roman doors of Susa
Porta Savoia (Roman era), one of the best preserved of this type in Piedmont
Roman walls of Susa, well preserved and with a characteristic triangular plan
Castle of the Countess Adelaide, built on the remains of the Praetorium
Forte della Brunetta, a fortress carved into the rock in the 18th century, inviolate by armies
Cathedral of San Giusto (10th century)
Founded in 1027, the cathedral of Susa, with a Latin cross, three naves and a transept, rises with the facade set on the walls of the Roman and medieval walls, incorporating in the left corner one of the Roman towers of the gate. called “Savoia” or “del Paradiso”. In correspondence with the left nave, a section of the Roman structure can still be clearly seen in an intersection of the facade wall.
The three naves are separated by irregularly shaped pillars with evident derivation of the primitive T shape which in the first two could also be cruciform; longitudinal round arches without capital are set on the pillars; towards the central nave there are slender pillars with cubic capitals that support the rings of the longitudinal round arches. On the left side of the nave there are five chapels. The first, covered by an elliptical vault carried by arches, has a Baroque altar; the second is covered by a simple lowered vault with an altar dedicated to Sant’Onorato; the third, fourth and fifth, structurally identical to the second, have altars dedicated respectively to St. Anna, the Addolorata and St. Joseph. The left arm of the transept has a rich baroque altar dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament; the altar of the nave, also Baroque, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The right aisle has the same roof as the left one; it ends with a cross-vaulted presbytery and a barrel-vaulted rectangular apse with a small dome. Two chapels are located next to the bell tower; one covered by a vault supported by arches, the other consisting of a single arched niche.
The bell tower built in stone, with a square base, leans against the right aisle, approximately in the middle; reinforced at the edges by buttresses, it has six floors, in addition to the sturdy support shoe, separated by round hanging arches. The belfry has four-light windows, the lower one with three-light windows and the lower one with mullioned windows. The floors below have mullioned windows and slits. It is crowned by a slender octagonal spire between four high pinnacles of terracotta covered with sheet metal; between the latter runs a perforated terracotta balustrade with stone gargoyles. The basement of the bell tower, which is cross vaulted with ribs, has frescoes on the walls of animals, warriors, monsters and symbolic figures, dating back to the 11th century.
Church of San Carlo (17th century)
The church, still officiated, is located in via Palazzo di Città; it is in the Baroque style with a single nave. Behind the altar you can admire a canvas representing San Carlo Borromeo attributed to Moncalvo’s daughter. A precious seventeenth-century statue of the line is now kept at the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.
Church of San Saturnino (11th century)
Located outside the city, on private land, it has a beautiful Romanesque bell tower with a facade embellished with pilasters and hanging arches. The interior is now in ruins, but outside it is possible to admire the Romanesque style of the building and the bell tower with three orders of mullioned windows. The church was already in decline at the beginning of XVIII century.
Church of Santa Maria del Ponte (13th century)
The church, of medieval origins (13th century), is dedicated to the Madonna della Pace and has valuable works of art inside. Since 2000 the complex has been enriched by a museum which houses precious artistic objects ranging from the 7th century. to the present day. The church of the Madonna del Ponte in Susa was built between 1266, the date of the last list of churches in the valley in which it does not appear, and 1369, the year in which a document was drawn up in the presence of the rector of Sanctae Mariae de Bridge. The title of the church derives from a precious wooden statue of the Madonna and Child probably dating back to the 12th century (and now visible in the Diocesan Museum). Over the centuries the church has undergone numerous changes and renovations, and in the nineteenth century it was the creation of the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, located lower than the central nave. Everything has been restored in recent years.
Church of the Madonna del Ponte is seat of the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, preserves the diocesan collections and the Treasury of the Cathedral. The statuette of the Madonna del Ponte is a small artifact in lime wood, the work of an unknown sculptor, who probably made it in the 12th century. In ancient times it must have been placed in a niche intus parietem and must have undergone some alterations in the 16th century. It is a very valuable Romanesque sculpture, restored at the end of the twentieth century. The statue gave its name to the church of Susa where the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of Susa stands, where it is located.
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (18th century)
The chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie in Susa is a small baroque church, rebuilt on ruins of the fourteenth century by Carlo Andrea Rana, an architect from Segus of the second half of the eighteenth century, famous above all for his treatises on fortifications. The design of the sacred furnishings was by the same architect, but they were partly stolen in 1963. The chapel is currently used as a memorial to the fallen.
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (10th century)
The church of Santa Maria Maggiore is probably the oldest church in Susa, of which only the facade, from the 15th century, and the bell tower, in Romanesque style remain.. Used until 1749, the church is now deconsecrated and belongs to private individuals, who have made it a home. It was dedicated from its origins to the Virgin, and the “major” epithet indicates its antiquity and importance in the religious hierarchy of the city.
According to legend, it dates back to the first century of the Christian era, when a group of faithful converted from St. Paul and St. Peter, to escape persecution, headed north, reaching the foot of our Alps. The then prefect of Susa, already converted to Christianity, welcomed and protected the fugitives and founded this small church for them. Around the year 1000, a document precisely mentions Santa Maria Maggiore, a building rebuilt after the destruction of the Saracens, and underlines its importance; in fact, it had spiritual jurisdiction over almost forty parishes in the valley, and the Baptistery that served the whole area depended on it. After alternating and complicated religious and political events, the church was definitively closed to worship around 1750, and reduced to civilian residence.
The ancient gabled façade is illuminated by a cross window, a rose window and a small single lancet window. There is no trace of an entrance door, as the entrance was on the side, in stone. Divided into three naves, without a transept, the church faces east, like all Romanesque churches. The bell tower has an almost square base, is about 40 meters high and leans against the city walls. Brick friezes and blind arches emphasize the floors which are illuminated by mullioned windows, then mullioned and triple mullioned windows and a belfry. It is surmounted by a pyramidal spire covered with stone lose, which ends with the bident mentioned above, in reality probably a cross deformed by time.
On the ground floor there is a small room created in the thickness of the walls (over 4 meters) as an internal entrance to the church; from the first floor, which is part of the path of a patrol path, you can access the belfry, from which you can recognize, looking out from the triple lancet windows, the whole monastic complex: church, bell tower, cloister and internal courtyards. This beautiful medieval monument of Susa has only recently undergone very significant restoration work, which now makes it possible to appreciate all its beauty. However, it was necessary to replace the hanger columns of some mullioned windows or three mullioned windows, damaged by time.
Convent of San Francesco (13th century)
According to an ancient tradition, the church of San Francesco in Susa was founded following the passage of the same saint to France in 1213 or 1214. It is certainly an unreliable date for the foundation of the church and the convent, dating back to around the middle of the 13th century. The salient façade (i.e. with the profile that marks the height of the internal naves) and tripartite by pilasters (pillars protruding from the wall) is quite atypical in Piedmont, where a smooth and gabled façade is preferred, and probably of French ancestry.
Another characteristic element is the gimberg, the triangular pediment that incorporates the portal, the first Piedmontese example and antecedent to some famous Gothic portals of Piedmont. According to tradition, the church originally did not have a lower level than the surrounding ground: this difference in height is attributed to the frequent flooding of the Gelassa river. The interior has a three-nave plan with a transept, now closed to make two chapels (the one on the right currently used as a sacristy) and the polygonal apse probably erected later, between the end of the thirteenth century and the early fourteenth century under a probable influence of the French Gothic. The internal decoration of the church dates back to the restorations of the years 1880-87 carried out by Arborio Mella. The furnishings are from the same period, typical of the neo-Gothic taste of the late 19th century. The two cloisters adjacent to the church are from different periods and bear witness to even profound alterations from later periods. During the Napoleonic suppression they were used as homes and for agricultural uses.
Casa de Bartolomei
Arche of Piazza San Giusto
Frescoes on the Palazzo del Tribunale
In Adelaide Castle it intertwines two paths: the archaeological and the museum. The architectural artefact, in fact, is itself “a museum”, since the forms it has today are the result of a history lasting two thousand years and beyond. On the ground floor there is the archaeological itinerary, which shows what was in the museum of the Roman Praetorium, of which structures and mosaics are preserved, on whose remains the Castrum then the Medieval castle and the Savoy “palace” were erected. Passing through the gallery on the ground floor, the visitor is led on a path through images in the history of the Castle and of the whole City of Susa. The exhibition also houses the artifacts found during the last restoration that testify to the frequentation of these rooms up to the present day. On the first floor, the wunderkammer leads into the atmospheres of the late 19th century, taking the visitor back in time, to the birth of this alpine museum, characterized by a dual vocation, archaeological and naturalistic
Civic Museum was founded in 1884 in the court building and moved only in the mid-1960s, the museum was located in the castle of Countess Adelaide. It was divided into nine rooms: the first with a naturalistic collection of the Italian Alpine Club; in the second, archaeological finds from the Roman era; in the third a collection of numismatics; in the fourth Risorgimento relics and a collection of weapons from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; in the fifth a valuable capital of the fourteenth century; in the sixth, minerals and fossils; in the seventh an Egyptian collection and donations of exotic objects; finally, the two rooms on the ground floor, opened in the 1990s in collaboration with the Montana Cultura Research Group, were dedicated to the rock engravings of the valley.
Convent Museum of San Francesco
The museum houses books, liturgical furnishings and paintings from the 18th to the 19th century. It is the first Franciscan building in Piedmont, linked to the passage in Susa del Santo, on his way to France in 1213 – 14. Subject of several renovations, it still preserves inside splendid frescoes and two beautiful cloisters.
Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art
Houses the Treasury of the Cathedral of San Giusto and the most precious works of art of the Diocese of Susa, Inaugurated on 22 September 2000, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of Susa (TO) aims to be an expression of the historical, artistic and cultural journey of the people of the Susa Valley. The main and distinctive novelty of the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art is the widespread and territorial character it assumes. The desire to provide a service to the enhancement of human potential in the area and the wealth of artistic testimonies present on the same, have given rise to a project articulated in a “widespread structure”, which places the separate offices located in Melezet next to the Segusina headquarters, San Giorio di Susa, Giaglione and Novalesa.
The Triptych of Rocciamelone, entirely engraved with the burin, is composed of three parts ending in a cusp, joined by four hinges: to the central one, larger, are connected two smaller ones in the shape of a trapezoid, which act as doors, in order to make transporting the triptych more convenient. On the central table is represented the Madonna sitting on a chest-like throne holding the little Jesus in her arms, who in one hand holds a sphere, symbol of the world, and with the other caresses the chin of her mother. Both have their heads surrounded by a halo. On the left door is represented St. George on horseback in the act of piercing the dragon with his spear; while on the left there is a bearded saint, probably St. John the Baptist (patron of the Knights of Malta), with his hands placed on the shoulders of a kneeling warrior who represents the client of the triptych, Bonifacio Rotario. All the figures are surmounted by slender Gothic arches and are enclosed by ornamental motifs that occupy the entire background.
In the lower band of the triptych, on the other hand, a Latin inscription in Gothic characters is engraved which can be translated as follows: “Here Bonifacio Rotario, citizen of Asti, brought me in honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year of the Lord 1358, the 1st day of September “. In 1673 Giacomo Gagnor di Novaretto, convinced that he was doing the Duke Carlo Emanuele II a pleasure, “stole” the triptych from the summit of Rocciamelone and transported it to the castle of Rivoli, where the royals were spending the summer, in order to spare the duke the strenuous climb to the top. The work is exhibited in the church of the Capuchin Fathers of Rivoli and honored with a solemn pilgrimage from Rivoli to Susa, in which a The triptych is then placed in the cathedral of San Giusto di Susa from where it was then transferred to the seat of the Diocesan Museum located in the church of the Madonna del Ponte.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was carried by the knight Bonifacio Rotario, by vote, to the top of Mount Rocciamelone, still consecrated to the Madonna.