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mail: Bill Thayer 
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Under the Surface: A Lesson in Style

[image ALT: An austere building in the classical style, two stories tall and capped by an uncarved and unadorned pediment. Four pilasters extend down almost to street level: in the interspaces right and left, a large rectangular window on the first floor above ground level; in the central interspace, the door, also pedimented, with an oval stone coat of arms above it. It is the church of S. Sebastiano in Fossato di Vico, Umbria (central Italy).]

The façade of S. Sebastiano in the summer of 2000.

Now I wouldn't have you miss out on the local controversies of Fossato. The placid pink façade you see above is the subject of one of them. After the 1997 earthquake, S. Sebastiano needed to be fixed — it's the parish church after all, and Mass could not be said in it due to the structural damage sustained — so the work was farmed out thru the Soprintendenza in Perugia, and this elegant picture is the result.

Elegant, but all wrong. This bright pink wash is totally uncharacteristic of Umbria, wasn't here before, and there is no particular reason for it: it serves no protective function, for example. A number of handsome churches in the Lazio look like this, and so does S. Martino in Sinalunga (Tuscany), but we're nowhere near these places here; a clear majority of the inhabitants of Fossato want their plain unpainted brick church back. Amusingly, I was told by several Fossatani that they in turn had been told that gosh, that pink stuff will fade and spall away soon, and you'll be able to see the brick: predictably, the universal reaction was, Why did they then bother to do this at all? — And in fact, as of 2023, that red paint has proved quite durable.

(See this side view of S. Sebastiano, which gives a better idea of what the church is about, I think: notice how the unpainted brick belfry and tile roof blend perfectly with the houses in front.)

[image ALT: A small tempietto-like construction, a dome supported on four columns. It is a detail of a baptismal font in the church of S. Sebastiano in Fossato di Vico, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 2/22/01: 1 photo ]

The interior of the church contains no great works of art, but is pleasant just the same. A little tour may eventually show up here: for now, though, just a better look at the baptismal font.

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Page updated: 6 Jul 23