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History of Cumiana

Then called "Cominana", the town was first mentioned in a document as early as 810 (in the age of the Carolingians). This document was known as "the gift of Teutcarius". It contains the voluntary ceding of the estates "from Montegrasso to the boundary stone of Bess" in favor of the monks of Novalesa, in the Susa Valley. It is assumed that Teutcarius was a Langobardian warrior, who kept his titles and possessions even after being defeated by Charlemagne at Chiuso di S. Michele. After the decline of the Carolingian Empire the historical events came thick and fast: Cumiana had several different rulers within a short time. At first it belonged to the Margraves of Susa; later, in 980, it went to the Orsini-Falconieri, lords of Rivalta and vassals of the Bishops of Turin. After the marriage of Countess Adelaide de Susa to Oddone of Savoy-Moriana in 1046, Cumiana became the property of the Savoyards. However, shortly afterwards the Turin Marches declined into a kind of feudal anarchy. Again Cumiana came under the control of the lords of Rivalta (who, having renounced the Bishops of Turin, had become vassals of the Savoyards). When Friederick Barbarossa fought against the free Italian municipalities, though, the lords of Rivalta faithfully embraced the church again, the result of which was that this very emperor ordered the plundering and destruction of their palace in 1176.

In 1239, the lords of Rivalta exited the historical stage of Cumiana, for at first, Amedeo IV of Savoy bought a part of their territory from them, and then, in 1242, his brother Tommaso II also acquired a further piece of land (with the exception of the area of "Le Marsaglie" – a plain in the South East of Cumiana). After there had been renewed fighting over the feudal system, the Savoyards re-established themselves with Count Amedeo (who was called "Il Grande", "The Great", 1285-1323). In 1291, he purchased even the last tiny bit of Cumiana, "Le Marsaglie". In 1294, the Piedmont went to Filippo, the firstborn son of Tommaso III. With him, the line of the Savoyard-Acaia (1294-1369) began. The princes of Acaia, who usually resided in Pinerolo, liked to stay at the Palace of Cumiana which they had had reconstructed and which they often used as a dungeon for prisoners of high rank.
Peace lasted in the county until Giacomo d'Acaia, the son of Filippo, tried to detach himself from any kind of subordination to other princes. The strained relations resulted in another war: in 1356, Amedeo VI (also called "Il Conte Verde", "The Green Count") crossed the Alps in order to suppress his cousin's rebellion. In 1359, the castle of Cumiana was also occupied by the Savoyard troops under the leadership of the "Green Count". At that time peace was not achieved, for the son of Giacomo, by the name of Filippo II of Acaia, opposed his father's will by starting to fight again and by reducing the region of Piedmont to rubble. Once again, Cumiana had to endure a siege (in 1368), this time under the Count of Acaia, who even hired English mercenary troops in order to be able to defeat the rebel, who was incarcerated and, later on, drowned in the Lake of Avigliana.

Until 1418, when the Acaia family line died out, Cumiana was in immediate possession of the Canalis family, who had bought that territory on 24th August, 1366, paying ten thousand gold guilders to Count Giacomo d'Acaia. The Canalis family, some of whom were influential notaries and judicial scholars and who served the Princes of Acaia at the Court of Pinerolo, had always felt very close to Cumiana until their decline in 1801. Cumiana, no longer being in immediate possession of the Savoyards, was subject to the feudalism of other noblemen and a long period of decline followed. After futile endeavours, on the one side the Canalis family and on the other side the inhabitants of Cumiana ultimately reached an agreement on 6th November, 1429. On that day the so-called “release” was sealed. That document enabled the community to impose taxes on various areas of trade. Despite the agreements reached, the circumstances of the people in Cumiana did not improve in the following years. The 16th century started with new turmoil. In 1517, Cumiana, which had already been afflicted by the plague, was forced to accommodate the armed troops of the Frenchman François I and in 1536 French forces invaded the Piedmont.
During those times the Canalis introduced the cultivation of rice, which did not aid the economy and in addition caused severe diseases among the population. It was not until 1630 that the continuing complaints from the citizens made the rulers stop the cultivation of rice. The occupation by the French lasted until 1559, when the new duke, Emanuele Filiberto, defeated the troops on the other side of the Alps in the Battle of San Quintino in Flanders and regained the duchy on 3rd April, 1559, with the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis.
Trading started again – at the same time the custom of having a weekly market on Friday was introduced, a custom which still exists today. Taxes and contributions were decreased and the population grew again. But the peace did not last. In 1580, Emanuele Filiberto passed away and his son Carlo Emanuele I sided with the Spanish in the clashes between Spain and France.

This new war had devastating consequences: General Lesdiguières invaded Piedmont and plundered the estates. In 1593, the old “Castello della Costa” was destroyed. Five years later the plague again spread throughout the land, spreading to such a devastating extent in 1630 that the number of victims could not even be determined. The desolate situation throughout the country forced the Canalis to renegotiate the former treaty of 1429, which resulted in the elimination of the majority of taxes that still burdened the people. In 1690, Duke Vittorio Amedeo II joined the alliance against the Sun King Louis XIV and was defeated by the French under Marshall Catinat in the tragic battle “delle Marsaglie” (also called the Battle of Orbassano) on 4th October, 1693. The dawn of the 18th century brought about various truces and new conflicts. Streets were further improved, old churches were restored and new ones built. The French Revolution and the French occupation were well-received in Cumiana by the new republican district council. On 21st December, 1798, the decision was made to join the Napoleonic Republic (at this point in time, the French army had been in Piedmont for a mere 10 days). In 1802, Piedmont was annexed by France and remained French until 1814, when the Savoyards reclaimed the throne. The 19th century was peaceful. For the first time, mayors were appointed, governing the towns from that point onward, which signified the influence of the local bourgeoisie. The French Revolution had put an abrupt end to the oppression inflicted by feudal rulers. In 1801, a post office was opened. In 1822, parts of the local market were provided with a roof.

In 1834, the hospital was opened, and three years later a new route to Pinerolo was marked. In the middle of the nineteenth century Cumiana was connected with Piscina by a road which crossed the new railway line from Turin to Pinerolo. The social and economic circumstances changed fundamentally. The last remains of the old form of power gave way to professions of the bourgeoisie - people earned their living as merchants, lawyers, notaries and landowners; glaziers', broommakers' and other small businesses were set up in Cumiana. The mining industry had an upswing, (especially in the quarries of Montegrosso). And still the extreme population growth forced many citizens of Cumiana to emigrate at the end of the century. Searching for work, they were mainly attracted by France and South America.

The 20th century, too, brought big changes and bloody conflicts. Between 1915 and 1918, a thousand of Cumiana's inhabitants joined the army; 99 of them lost their lives on the battlefield. In 1944, the town suffered another cruel stroke of fate: on 3rd April, 51 citizens, who as a form of reprisal had been chosen arbitrarily from the male population, were executed by the German-Italian SS. This happened after an exchange of fire which had taken place two days earlier at the Piazza Vecchia. Again and again one encounters gravestones which bear witness to numerous fates. Shortly afterwards, the return to normality was accompanied by a quick upswing in the economy which did not take place without contradictions: while local factories, producing goods made of rubber, tin, plastic and resin, employed hundreds of workers, the majority of employees, however, commuted every day from Cumiana to the companies and offices of the nearby city. Traditional rural life began to disappear, a phenomenon especially prevalent in the mountainous regions from which ever more people moved away. However, first subtle signs of imminent changes could be seen, as it was realized that the future lies in recreating an equilibrium, controlling growth, protecting nature and the environment and emphasizing the values of culture and artistic heritage. These are aims based on general consensus which can be put into practice.


San Gervasio Church with Bell Tower
The adjacent bell tower was constructed in the 9th century. "San Gervasio", the church that can be seen today, was built in the 18th century on the same spot where the original chapel used to be. Next to it is one of the Piedmont's most ancient cemeteries, with the "strada dei morti" (passageway of the dead) leading up to it.

The Church of San Giovanni Battista della Costa
This church was founded in 1338 by Guido Canalis, then bishop of Turin. To this very day, the Counts of Canalis are buried here, and an inscription below the main altar bears witness to this. The interior of the church merely consists of a central nave and four spacious symmetrical chapels. There are numerous works of art dating from the 17th and 18th century throughout the church.

Santa Maria della Motta Church
This Baroque building which rises majestically in the center of the village immediately catches the eye of the visitor to Cumiana. Founded in 1407 by the Canalis family, even the original church was a very impressive building, which to this day, with its elliptical nave, is among Piedmont's largest churches built on an oval ground plan. The visitor will recognize art from the 18th and 19th century in the interior; however, many of the 18th century paintings are in urgent need of restoration and are thus not on display for the public.

The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli
Located in the suburb of Tavernette, this is one of the oldest buildings in the region around Cumiana. It was erected on a hill in 1319 as a single-nave house of worship and was of national importance. Its present-day facade dates from 1776; in the two side aisles, which were added later, one can admire interesting art treasures, such as a painting from 1654.

The Church and the Church Tower of San Giacomo
Initially the church bore the name "San Nazario". According to dates on the portal, the building can be traced back to the year 1040. Apart from the main altar, the church also had two side altars, but no sacristy. It had an elaborate interior; but today all that exists to show the former splendour is the main altar with a painting of the Last Supper by Riccardo Gontero, an artist from Cumiana. The tower next to the church is built in Romanesque style.

The Cloister Church San Rocco and San Sebastiano
The building opposite the Santa Maria della Motta church dates back to the middle of the 17th century. One century later, there were plans for a new, bigger church with an elliptical ground plan. The church has a beautiful marble altar as well as the statue of Saint Rocco and numerous other works of art. The cloister exterior gives an impression of austere elegance.

The Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Halfway along the road which leads into Cumiana's centre lies the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. The church, first mentioned in 1312, with its ground plan in the shape of a Maltese cross, and the massive church tower have been renovated and restored several times. Today the interior boasts ionic columns, murals with trompe-l'oeil-elements from the 18th century as well as frescos from the 19th century.

The Costa Castle – "Castello della Costa"
Nothing is left today but the remains of the wall around the Castello, which was built as a kind of fort in the 13th century. From 1366 until 1864 it was owned by the Canalis family who used it as a residence. Afterwards, the building changed hands several times, and the today the part which is open to the public belongs to the Vaglio family. The building consists of four wings which are very different in architectural design and are connected to each other by a central courtyard. After renovations, the east side and the three-storey main front, which faces south, are in good condition. A monumental stairway leads into the building as well as to a 155-square-metre terrace made of Carrara marble. From this terrace one can admire some ancient sundials, one of which still keeps the exact time even today. Though most of the Castello's furnishings are missing, the 18th century frescos, which were probably painted by the Pozzo brothers and which decorate the 104-square-metre drawing room and feature many trompe-l'oeil effects, can still be seen. The visitor can also admire the original windows, the wooden floor and the coffered ceiling from the end of the 17th century, as well as several Gobelins and other tapestries. Off the big drawing room there is a small Baroque private chapel.
Consisting of several splendid terraces and gardens, the spacious park with its ancient trees surrounds the whole area of the Castello. A tree-shaded drive leads to the Belvedere, a terrace with a panoramic view of Cumiana.
The Castello hosts a permanent exhibition of furnishings.


La traduzione in Inglese è stata realizata dall’insegnante: Rebecca Wright von Tucher
Con la collaborazione degli studenti dell’istituto di lingue di Erlangen: Carolin Franz, Julia Westermann, Tina Benker, Mirjam Hampel, Julia Hübner, Tina Ullherr, Elisabeth Götz, Nina Wirth, Yvonne Krauß, Stefan Wagner, Jasmin Schenkel, Simon Schlechtweg, Christian Weimar, Martina Godzik, Christine Lucaciu.

Text translated by: Carolin Franz, Julia Westermann, Tina Benker, Mirjam Hampel, Julia Hübner, Tina Ullherr, Elisabeth Götz, Nina Wirth, Yvonne Krauß, Stefan Wagner, Jasmin Schenkel, Simon Schlechtweg, Christian Weimar, Martina Godzik, and Christine Lucaciu, students at: Institut für Fremdsprachen und Auslandskunde bei der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Scuola Superiore per Traduttori e Interpreti presso l'Università di Erlangen-Norimberga) , teacher