EARLY MEDIAEVAL CHURCHES AND OTHER RUPESTRIAN SETTLEMENTS IN TIGNALE Apart from San Giorgio in Varolo, evidence has been found of early medieval foundations in three other churches in Tignale: the Sanctuary of Montecastello, San Pietro (St. Peters’) in Gardola and in the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta. SAN PIETRO (ST. PETERS’) IN GARDOLA The Church of San Pietro is about 200 m. from the centre of Gardola, which has a part protruding which is a hillock in the form of an ellipse, an area which is still called “castello”(castle) today, even if, after various studies and with all the necessary prudence, the origins would seem to be much older, from before the Roman period, or late-Roman. Before the excavations carried out in the seventies and in 1985-86, only the altar table would have suggested, if it had been studied, an older period with respect of the actual layout.
The function of the altar table at the time of the de-consecration of the church is not known. It was constructed using a pink stone which, under macroscopic examination, might have come from the stone quarry on Mount Denervo, in Tignale.. This is extremely interesting, because in this area it is rare to find early mediaeval church furnishings that are not of white stone. The front of the church was demolished during the first world war because the church was used as a store for lorries, and in the fifties the building was transformed into a theatre and the altar was moved to its present position in the church in Olzano. Later during the digging of a trench to fix the box for the prompter, they found a walled-in chamber, inside which they found a reliquary in calcareous stone.
According to a typology in widespread use from the fourth century the reliquary was in the form of a sarcophagus and decorated with crosses within a simple frame and containing a cover which was curved when seen in section. In 1985 - 86 the trench was widened exposing a large semi-circular apse with other structures inside which were not examined at that time.
In 2002, with the excavation still open from those years before, it was possible to survey and analyse the archaeological deposit layer by layer, recognizing a sequence which was then confirmed in the intensive excavation in 2003. This sequence comprises at least eight periods of building for the place of worship: 1 – a first church with one nave, 2 – the insertion in the chancel of a square enclosure with a chamber for reliquaries, 3- the reconstruction of the chancel in the Romanesque times, 4 – the building of an arch across the church in the middle of the nave (the two foundation pillars of which are still in place) in the late Middle Ages, possibly in the fifteenth century because of the numerous comparisons in churches in the Garda area. 5 – a further renovation of the apsidal area during the sixteenth century, 6 – the opening of a side chapel on the southern side about the middle of the seventeenth century, 7 – the reconstruction of the front of the church immediately after the 1st World War, 8 – the transformation into a theatre. Whilst the interventions of reconstruction have concentrated on the chancel, the nave has not changed and it cannot be excluded that the long side walls of the early medieval church are still partially conserved in their upper areas.
Extracts from the book “ Chiese e insediamenti rupestri altomedievali a Tignale” by Gian Pietro Brogiolo and Monica Ibsen.