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Abbazia di San Fruttuoso: restoration of the church façade

21 December 2021

Work on the restoration of the façade of the church of the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso in Camogli (GE) was completed a few months ago: a delicate intervention that restores balance to the building of the abbey complex.

More than thirty-five years after the last major restoration project and almost forty years after the property was donated to FAI by Frank and Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj in 1983, the restoration of the façade of the church of San Fruttuoso was completed a few months ago. This is the last stage of a long restoration campaign financed by the Compagnia di San Paolo and thanks to the generous contributions of many private donors. Work on the overall restoration began in 2013 with the restoration of the bell tower, and then continued with the Abbey’s façade facing the sea, including the porticoes and the opening of the sacred fountain to visitors, up to the Rectory and the Doria Tower, completed in early 2021.

All the restoration work carried out in the village of San Fruttuoso over the last ten years has had a common thread: they are conservative, almost invisible restorations, which show an in-depth study of the historical events to which the buildings have been subjected and respect for the signs that these have left on the surfaces. Last but not least, they were the result of intense teamwork between the architects of the Foundation’s Restoration and Conservation Office, the conservation authorities, the operations manager for the property, the companies and craftsmen who carried out the work, and finally, the residents of the village who were constantly involved in the various phases of the work.

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE RESTORATION OF THE CHURCH FAÇADE

In particular, the restoration of the church was preceded by historical and archival studies and research, which were essential in order to trace the historical phases that led to the church’s current appearance.

We already knew that the church had suffered serious collapses in 1915, following a heavy flood that caused the loss of the first span and led to the formation of the current beach.

A photograph taken before the storm confirms the presence of a building in front of the church, and above it we can see the tripartite window divided by two small columns that characterised the church’s façade at the time.

By comparing archive and current photos, the designers of FAI’s Restoration and Conservation Office were able to identify similarities, elements still present after the collapse and elements that had been lost.
In 1922, the façade was rebuilt: the main nave was closed off, the side niches were filled in and the two columns were left exposed. Photographs found after the reconstruction show that the side parts of the church were also plastered, as was the central section.

In the 1990s, architect Guglielmo Mozzoni restored the church with an intervention that changed the appearance of the façade: the plaster of the two side bays was completely removed and the exposed bricks were left; the entrance door was modified and its top part changed from a rectangular to a round arch and the mullioned window was framed in an arch slightly undercut with respect to the line of the façade.

Essays and surveys carried out on the façade confirmed what had been discovered through research on historical photographs: traces of the side niches that had been filled in after the collapse and the rectangular lintel of the entrance door are still present.

The current restoration of the façade took into account what happened historically and the changes made by architect Mozzoni, but without erasing the signs of stratification. A delicate intervention, shared step by step with the Superintendency, which led to the final decision to slightly fade the lateral portions of the façade, with a light covering of the brickwork that recalls the façade of the 1920s and restores overall balance to the building within the abbey complex.

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