Le Camere del Seminario

The Episcopal Seminary

During its 23rd meeting, held on 15th July 1563, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed that a “Seminarium perpetuum” be set up in all dioceses, so that the Bishop might “àlere et religiose educare et in sacris disciplinis instituere” candidates for the priesthood. Following this directive, and despite various oppositions and hurdles, seminaries were established within the Church. In Italy, the greatest advancements were reached thanks to St. Carlo Borromeo’s endeavor (1532-1584), Milan’s Archbishop and faithful perpetrator of the Council’s decrees.

The first Bishops of the Seminary of Alba were Mons. Marco Girolamo Vilda and Mons. Leonardo Marini. As a matter of fact, Mons. Vida held the diocese from 1533 to 1566 and he was its last Bishop without seminary, even though he was the one who organized its administrative apparatus and allocated funds and benefits. As for Mons. Marini, who had already been Lanciano’s Archbishop, he was one of the Council’s most zealous priests. He was sent to Alba (where he held the diocese between 1566 and 1572) by St. Pio V, who knew the city quite well, having stayed at the local convent of St. Domenico, of which he was prior from 1545 to 1547, during Mons. Vida’s episcopate. Additionally, Mons. Marini maintained a great friendship with St. Carlo Borromeo.

The Episcopal Seminary was officially established in 1567 by Mons. Leonardo Marini. Originally, it hosted 14 clerics (number that increased to 20 before construction had been completed). These data were acquired through Mons. Marini’s letters to the Archbishop St. Carlo, dated 1567: “Alba, 30th March 1567 - … I have not found any cleric in this church: only treasurers were nominated for the seminary, I earlier appointed fourteen clerics, and then other two which makes it sixteen, and I hope to God that they will show themselves to be fruitful plants” (St. Carlo epistolary – Letters from Marini to St. Carlo – Ambrosiana Library 13 (25)). After a few months, he then continued: “Alba, 3rd December 1567 - ...I have appointed priests about 20 clerics”. (therein – Ambrosiana Library 16 (31)).

The Seminary of Alba was then one of the first to be established in Italy (and in the world), after those of Milan (1564), Rome (1565) and Turin (1566).

The original building was adjacent to the Bishop’s palace, as later stated by Mons. Paolo Brizio, Alba’s Bishop from 1642 to 1665. In 1658, he wrote the first seminary’s Regulation, which modernized clerics’ lives with a strong call to studying, spirituality and a righteous life. Under the Carmelite Mons. Vasco’s control, who held the diocese between 1727 and 1750, the Seminary was expanded to accommodate over 100 clerics. Mons. Virgilio Natta, Alba’s Bishop from 1750 to 1768 and later Cardinal, expanded the Seminary even further, ordering the construction of clerics’ rooms, a big refectory and a main hall.

It was with Bishop Mons. Giuseppe Maria Langosco di Stroppiana, who held the diocese between 1778 and 1788, that the building was completed – precisely a few months after his appointment – in 1778.

Le Camere del Seminario(1) Le Camere del Seminario(2) Le Camere del Seminario(3)

At the beginning of the 19th century, the seminary went through a period of serious decay, due to marauding and tampering. Alba’s diocese was suppressed and, in 1803, the seminary’s possessions were transferred. Indeed, the seminary itself was employed to host French military troops, who plundered it. A petition was sent to Napoleon for its reopening, which occurred in 1818. As for the renovation, it started in 1819.

During the second half of the 19th century, the city’s ancient core was involved in various projects, all aimed at shaping the Langhe’s capital into a modern urban center. First, priority was given to align and regularize central streets and squares, as a necessary step towards that urban decency which had – for over twenty years – been longed for. One of the first and most important actions in this direction had to do with the area where the seminary laid. In 1844, graduated for only three years but already held in high regard (in view of his academic studies and his contacts with the Turin’s milieu), Archbishop Busca replaced engineer Vandero in the project for the upgrade of the episcopal seminary, for which a new building, overlooking the square, had been planned.

Busca’s project, which considered the demolition of some secondary sections of the seminary’s prior building, consisted of a new orthogonal sleeve to be attached to the existing colonnade, rearward of the square. The sleeve was then built a little further than planned, thus creating a more suitable background for the new Theatre Square, which was later erected. In that area, when the additional sleeve was put up, there still were old buildings, all pertaining to the seminary but passed on to the municipality in 1857 and later demolished, which freed the new edifice’s facade.

The facade was completed in 1851, while the further extension, enabled with the building of an internal sleeve, dates to the second half of the 19th century. Such early project contributed to the increase of the young Alba’s architect’s professional admiration, and he would also make a fundamental contribution to the city renovation in the 19th century.

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The religious house “The Seminary” is located in the very heart of Alba city centre. It is only 10 minutes away from the railway station and it is also reachable by car.

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