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The Church and the frescoes


This Romanesque-style abbey church features a rectangular floor plan, with a central nave and two lateral aisles. The building we see today is the result of architectural changes over time, including elements from different eras (early medieval, 16th and 20th centuries). Its present form is probably that shaped by the commendatory Abbot Gian Matteo Giberti.

On 14 May 1527, Pope Clement VII gave the coveted and disputed Abbey of Rosazzo as a commandery to the faithful Bishop of Verona, Gian Matteo Giberti. In 1509, as a result of the wars following the establishment of the League of Cambrai, the old abbey complex was severely damaged. Once the structure was under his control, Abbot Giberti began to radically change it. Cividale nobleman Venceslao Boiani was placed in charge of the construction works, completed in 1533, and the execution of the pictorial decoration, completed in 1535, was entrusted to the Venetian mannerist painter and pupil of Giorgione, Francesco Torbido (Venice 1482/3 - Verona 1562). Torbido came to Friuli with his son-in-law Battista dell'Angelo, and within a few months he had produced scenes surrounded by Renaissance architecture and immersed in a delicate and picturesque tonal landscape, bringing the themes and styles of Venetian and central Italian painting to peripheral Friuli.

The decoration of the abbey presbytery portrays scenes from the life of the titular saint, St Peter the Apostle.

The Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor occupies the entire semi-dome of the apse, grabbing the attention of believers from the moment they enter the structure. The fulcrum is in the group formed by Christ flanked by the prophets Moses and Elijah, shrouded in blue clouds bathed in a golden light that almost seems to blind the young apostle John, forcing him to cover his face with his cloak, joined by James and Peter.

On the left-hand wall is the Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew surrounded by characteristic 20th-century framing, while the right-hand wall depicts the Miraculous Catch of Fish on Lake Gennesaret.

The four sections of the groin vault over the apse, clearly distinguished by the bright festoons of red and white roses (the latter most likely a reference to the Rosazzo rose), contain the symbols of the Four Evangelists: the angel of Saint Matthew, the lion of Saint Mark, the ox of Saint Luke and the eagle of Saint John.

In the triumphal arch is a Madonna and Child with Saints.

These frescoes have been restored three times: the first towards the end of the 19th century, the second in the early 20th century and the last, giving us the frescoes we see today, between 2003 and 2007. The latter was the most important and substantial restoration work. The frescoed surfaces were marked by areas of disintegrating plaster, with large sections repainted in tempera and damp patches with opaque parts. During previous ‘restorations’, Torbido's work had essentially been painted over, as the prevailing idea of the time was to 'renew’ or ‘update’ old frescoes. As a result, the original artwork had been concealed for years, thus also altering its general interpretation.