Among the best Piedmont lakes, there is certainly that of Orta. Around these wonderful coasts of the lake there are many villages, including San Giulio. On site there is a medieval church, to say the least picturesque, with a structure that speaks volumes about its history.
On the one hand, it must be said that the transformations of the Baroque era made the medieval church of San Giulio d’Orta unrecognizable. But planted and firm between the stuccoes and the seventeenth-eighteenth-century paintings, the admirable black pulpit is like a bulwark, an unassailable Romanesque nucleus. Judged by many, especially in recent times, as one of the masterpieces of medieval Italian sculpture, the pulpit – dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel, is formally an “ambo” – amazes for the vigor it emanates, even more than for its beauty. As dark and shiny as a bronze sculpture – it is actually carved in Oria’s “serpentine” marble – it seems to challenge everything that happens around it: it doesn’t matter if the centuries have been able to change a lot the naves, the colors and the furnishings, because on the his strong and dark marble, on the contrary, will have no effect.
THE FIGURE OF GUGLIELMO DA VOLPIANO
In the pulpit of the church, at the end, there is the figure of a man standing frontally. His hands rest on a tau-shaped stick, a symbol of the abbot’s dignity. Reason why experts believe it is Guglielmo da Volpiano, the abbot born in Orta, central figure in the history of Upper Italian monasticism. The imposing figure, wrapped in a cloak that also looks like metal, stares into the void. He meditates much higher thoughts than those who observe him from the nave, he thinks concepts that no change in tastes will scratch, or make outdated.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
The church of San Giulio has remote origins, however it was destroyed by the siege of 962, when Otto I emperor of Germany set fire to the island, on which the adversary’s troops, Berengario, had taken refuge. The structure as we know it was born after the year 1000. As evidence of this, the bell tower of beautiful Lombard workmanship. The black pulpit was built around 1100, the golden age of Romanesque sculpture throughout Europe.
The interior is full of frescoes, certainly not Romanesque; even those who have no specific interest in medieval art will like it. The basilica imposes itself majestically on the beautiful panorama of the very special journey of San Giulio. And if you have never visited this incredible village, visit it in the cold season, when Orta San Giulio, the delightful town of departure by the lake, is less crowded with tourists.