From the kingdom of Italy to today

In the second half of the century, in the aim of honoring the results of a public vote which had been posed to Santa Margherita by the population, the old church designed by Pisano was expanded. In the first half of the 18th century it had undergone notable transformations. This last expansion erased the remaining architectural traces of the old Romanic Church and demolished the tiny church of San Basilio, next to the place where Santa Margherita died and was first buried. The new church rose from a plan that was worked and reworked by architects Presenti, Falcini and Castellucci. Thus it presents a style which is not very unified on the whole. The works were supervised by architects Paolo Mirri and Domenico Mirri, who wrote an interesting work journal that has recently been reprinted. During the first world war 600 Cortonese people died in the battle fields. In 1924 a memorial was erected in the church of Santa Margherita in the form of a votive chapel with a large wall mural by Osvaldo Bignami.

War memorial by Delfo Paoletti

In the public gardens the fallen soldiers are remembered with a bronze monument, work of the Cortonese sculptor Delfo Paoletti (1895-1975). After the second world war, in August 1944, on Bishop Giuseppe Franciolini’s initiative (1932-1989), the city decided to give thanks for being spared from the destruction of the war. After taking a quick vote they commissioned the Cortonese artist Gino Severini (who was in Cortona at that time) to paint 14 stations of the cross, which were later realized in mosaic by the mosaic artist Romualdo Mattia and placed in the niches along the road which ascends from Porta Berarda to the Church of Santa Margherita. Gino Severini re-embraced his cubo-futuristic style for this project and expressed decades of experience in decorative murals in this works, which are the expression of the artistic continuity of the city in this century.

Another important event in the history of the city took place on September 30, 1986 when the "Congregation of Bishops" decreed that the dioceses of Cortona, San Sepolcro and Arezzo would be unified. Thus the diocese which was reinstated or instituted on June 19, 1325, disappears again. Among the causes one might site the same "sign of the times" which caused its abolishment in Paleochristian times: the decrease in the population growth and the shortage of priests. Since the tomb and the church have been destroyed, there is no trace of what existed (if it did exist) of the first diocese of the fourth and sixth centuries. And what is even more disturbing is that the historical memory, the personal identity and the devotion to the first bishop-martyr Vincenzo has disappeared. This character means identity, historic memory and devotion that the Cortonese have a duty to reconstruct.

Gino Severini, mosaics along the Way of the Cross

As for the history of the diocese from 1325 to the present day, it has been amply covered by Rector Giuseppe Mirri (1854-1911) in "I Vescovi di Cortona" printed by Calosci in 1972, which remains a fundamental resource for people who want to have a deeper knowledge of the events which took place in the Diocesan community of Cortona. Since 1986 the signs of the time have gathered together Arezzo, Cortona and Sansepolcro under one bishop's throne and it is their duty to insure that the historical memories of the ex dioceses do not vanish, watching over all the remains of them in the churches, in the monasteries and convents, but most of all in the archives. Great evidence of what has been displayed until now is given by the local sandstone buildings left to us by the men who have succeeded in the various centuries: the walls and the doors, the houses, the palaces, the churches and the numerous works of art that they contained and still contain. Many of these works of art are now housed in the two prestigious museums: the Etruscan Academy Museum and the Diocesan Museum. In the end even the tombs are historical traces of those men, the memory of whom remains alive in every corner of this city through the indelible testimony of their prestigious works.