The Santa Maria Maddalena Church

Definitely worth seeing is the small but beautiful church of Santa Maria Maddalena nestled among the buildings in Via Vittorio Emanuele in the heart of Alba. Its baroque style contrasts with the imprint of the medieval city.

The Church stands on an existing building which was once a place of worship of the Order of the Humiliated. It was commissioned by Count Giacinto Roero to the architect Bernardo Antonio Vittone and was finished in 1749, as can be seen by the dates on some decorative features.

The building is bonded to the devout Margherita di Savoia, widow of the Marquis Teodoro who, along with his most loyal dames, came to Alba in 1421 after the death of her husband, determined to lead a monastic life according to St. Dominic’s rules. Here, she requested and obtained the permission for the foundation of a new Dominican monastery, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene.

Altarpiece painted by Giovanni Battista Biscarra in 1825 and placed above the altar

Altarpiece painted by Giovanni Battista Biscarra in 1825 and placed above the altar

The façade and the interior

The unfinished brick façade displays a winding rows of bricks. The wooden portal, topped by an oval stucco and a lunette, presents moldings on which three crossed arrows are carved; symbols that refer to illness, slander and persecution endured by the Blessed one.

The elliptical interior is a remarkable example of Baroque architecture: the eight Corinthian columns, which highlight just as many pilasters, are rhythmically repeated. If you look towards the top you can see the decorated oval dome and lantern. The Dome’s decorations, which focus on the Glory of the Blessed Margherita of Savoy and the entire Dominican Order, pay homage to the Savoy dynasty and were depicted by the painter Michele Antonio Milocco between 1744 and 1750.

The eighteenth century left altar, decorated with precious marble, is a further homage to the Blessed one. The right altar is dedicated to Santa Rosa, while the main one is dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena, who is further illustrated in the oval altarpiece painted in 1825 by Giovanni Battista Biscarra. There are also two statues dating back to the eighteenth century of the Blessed Margherita and Santa Rosa of Lima.

Silver urn designed by Pietro Borrani in 1840

Silver urn designed by Pietro Borrani in 1840

The urn and wooden choir

At the top of the altar, protected by a grill decorated with small scallops, is the silver urn made in 1840 by the silversmith Pietro Borrani from Turin and donated by Queen Maria Cristina Borromeo. The body of the Blessed one was preserved here until 2002, when it was moved to the Monastery of the Blessed Margherita of Savoy in Serre, Alba.

The nuns’ trapezoidal wooden choir with its forty-eight stalls in walnut wood has exquisite carved armrests with volute motifs. The backrests and pews are embellished with cross, shell and diamond point decorations. The choir is placed behind the main altar where the vault, created by Giacomo Rapa, is adorned with contrived architecture and decorative paintings completed in 1734.

The frescoes, dating back to the eighteenth century, were painted by Francesco and Matteo Casoli from Guarene. Worthy of notice among the furnishings are the sixteenth century wooden crucifix and the bust of Christ by the sculptor Pietro Canonica.

Useful info:

Opening hours: Monday-Sunday from 7:30 am to 6 pm. Access available for the disabled

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