In September 2008, on the initiative of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici e Paesagistici (Board for Architectural and Pastoral Assets) in Piedmont, in collaboration with the “Osservatorio del Paesaggio per il Monferrato e l’Astigiano” (the Overseer of the Landscape for Monferrato and the Asti Region), the church of Santa Maria di Vezzolano was officially entered in the European routes project of the Transromanica, the International Association recognised by the Council of Europe as a “Major European Cultural Route”. The objective of the Association is to emphasise the cultural and artistic unity of Romanesque Europe, with the aim of protecting the European Romanesque heritage and to spread the knowledge through an extensive awareness raising activity, in order to also promote cultural and religious tourism.
The Romanesque churches are among the greatest historical, artistic and cultural heritages of the Province of Asti, a unique wealth that in recent years has been subject to conserving and promotional activities. Precious testimony of the medieval age, these small jewels are mainly located in the northern part of the province, the territory included between the Po and Tanaro rivers, that is Lower Monferrato, an area that in the medieval age was crossed by the pilgrim route from Rome to the Holy Land, the Via Francigena.
Built for the most between the 11th and 12th century, they were resting places on the route of the long medieval pilgrimages and were also the churches of the small villages that rose on the scenic hills surrounding the area of Asti. These small jewels were therefore, the heart of daily life. The history of Monferrato, with the construction of the castles, necessary for defence, and the creation of new land settlements, resulted in those small villages being abandoned and the parish churches became graveyard chapels or rural churches.
Some remained in good condition because they were kept in use in small cemeteries; others, abandoned and completely isolated in the countryside, have been recently restored.
Many retain a sculptural heritage of great value, in some, small Romanesque traces remain but others are by now in ruins. All, however deserve a visit, if not only for their splendid location within the evocative landscape of Monferrato.
We invite you to discover these enchanted places, rich in history and charming to enjoy; a peaceful and unrepeatable meditation, travelling the three itineraries that are illustrated below