The historic churches of the Val di Fassa
the oldest church in the valley
The church of Santa Giuliana
The origins of the church of Santa Giuliana, patron saint of the Val di Fassa, are extremely remote, although it was only in 1237 that it was mentioned in a document. It is the oldest church in the valley and dates back to the pre-Carolingian age. It was built on the site of a prehistoric cult, a sacrificial place for the population who inhabited this valley in the Rhaetian age. It lies at the feet of the Dolomites, on a hill that overlooks the whole valley.
It is in gothic style, with a slender bell tower with a parallelepiped spire and unforgettable roof covered in wooden shingles. Within visitors can admire two precious works of art: the original frescoes, probably by the Brissinense School and dating back to mid-1400, and the wooden high altar engraved in 1517 by Giorgio Artz from Bolzano. The frescoes are divided into two cycles: the first, painted in the early fifteenth century, covers the vault of the apse (21 paintings, each with a figure), the second, painted in the early sixtieth century, shoes the ‘heroic’ life of Santa Giuliana in 10 paintings, on the left wall of the nave.
The Holy Trinity dominates the vault, depicted as a single person with three faces. It is one of the very few depictions of the Holy Trinity with three faces that remains. The author of the frescoes was a good artist from the ring of master Leonardo who worked in Bressanone until 1540.
During the summer, the church is open to the public every day from 4.00pm until 6.00pm.
The church of San Giovanni
The church of San Giovanni, located in Vigo di Fassa, is part of the ancient architectural complex that has survived mostly intact to this day and also includes the parsonage, the sexton’s house and the large barn, now the headquarters of the Ladin Cultural Institute, which received the tithes owed in past centuries by the population to maintain the cleric.
This church was the religious and civic fulcrum of the Fassa community. It was the church with the baptismal font and where, until 1554, all the new-borns in the valley were baptised. Here too were all the funerals, weddings and most other religious functions celebrated. At the end of these celebrations, the entire population would get together to discuss administrative matters of general interest.
The current Gothic style church was erected in the late fifteenth century. The pre-existing Romanesque church was demolished as it was deemed too small for the needs of the valley. Of this latter, at crypt level, all that remains are the ruins of the ancient apse with an important (testimony, in fact, to the fact that Christianization had reached the Aquileia valley) fragment of fresco depicting archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raffaele as well as two leonine heads on either side of the main entrance.
On the external wall of the Romanesque apse below the current church of San Giovanni is one of the oldest frescoes in the valley.