San Giovanni in Valle
The church is one of the oldest buildings of worship in the town. Little is known yet about its origin.
Some fragments of sculpture datable between the late 6th and the early 7th century, which until the 18th century had been built into the façade and are presumed to have come from the church’s original decoration, would seem to suggest its origin under the Longobard Gastaldaga. It must certainly have been in existence towards the middle of the 7th century, when some noble Longobards were buried in monumental tombs inside the church, opposite the presbytery. Recent investigations to the east of the church building show that, probably since its early days, the church may have had a baptismal area behind it. All these details would confirm the hypothesis, put forward several times, that this was the church of the nobility of Cividale from the dawn of Longobard presence in the town. Considering its complementary position with respect to the Early Christian complex of the Cathedral, also from the point of view of the baptismal function, one cannot exclude that it may have originated as an Arian centre. Between the end of the 9th and the early years of the 10th century, San Giovanni was transformed from the place of worship of the Gastaldaga to a monastic church. However, very little is known of the conformation of the original church. Its present layout is the result of transformations that occurred between the Middle Ages (mid 13th and 14th century) and the Renaissance, before the big extension work in the 17th century which left the church as it appears today. The most recent transformations concern not so much the church itself as the passage between the narthex and the cloister: this situation already appears in a plan of the monastery dated 1812. In particular the previous partition wall with a double arcade was eliminated, replaced by a new wall at a right angle to the church. The interior of this area was also subdivided, doing away with the aspect of the older monumental entrance dating back to the Renaissance. The porch that defines the narthex of the church was lowered after the earthquake in 1975. Only a few limited survey digs carried out during the last century brought to light traces of the primitive layout and of its later transformations. The examination of these data in the light of new archaeological investigations and the analyses of the stratigraphy of the masonry offer a general picture, albeit preliminary, of the transformations of the church with relation to at least four main architectural phases concerning:
- The Early Medieval church
- The fourteenth-century church
- The church after the Middle Ages
- The church in the 17th-18th century, as currently preserved.