The compagnia laicale di San Niccolò


Dramatic episodes happened at the end of last century as a repercussion of the serious socio-political bomb exploded in Europe. The good management of the Compagnia di San Niccolò coincided with the bad administration of the associated Compagnia del Gesù. After long and difficult negotiations, meetings and mainly fights, even violent conflicts, in which the nobles of one brotherhood wanted to subdue the others, the Bishop established the suppression of both brotherhoods and the formation of a new one, the so called Compagnia del SS. Sacramento. Two years later, in 1784, the decrees issued by the Grand duke to suppress the religious institutions caused the end of the new association, which died in its cradle as a consequence of the mutual rivalry and internecine fights. As you know, history, even the great one, is made up of small and apparently irrelevant episodes, but which become very important if they are correctly inserted in the general socio-political contexts. At that time bishop Alessandri was acquiescent towards the Jansenist doctrines approved by the Grand duke’s religious policy. For instance, in Cortona they caused a substantial rebellion against the suppression of old brotherhoods, the sale or demolition of churches and centuries-old monasteries; but the separation of a “Tuscan” church from the universal church, which was discussed in Florence during a meeting of Tuscan bishops, was not approved by Alessandri, who deeply mended his way in the end to take important decisions for the future of the Church of Cortona. At that time the church of San Niccolò was reopened after over ten years and was assigned as a place of worship of the Compagnia del SS. Salvatore, which was re-established after the suppression ordered by the Grand duke.

The new regulation, acknowledged by bishop Alessandri as a statute of the new brotherhood, in addition to foresee the refusal of the brothers who had followed the dangerous ideas of modern thinkers, established a fundamental principle: the brothers would have personally paid for the maintenance and preservation of the church. From that point on they resumed the traditional activities, in particular those related to ceremonies and worship, such as the procession of the Holy Week in which the big simulacrum of Jesus Christ on Calvary was carried along the streets of Cortona. The first image and reference to this statue date back to 1797, and was very similar to the present statue, which underwent serious damages in a fire broken out in 1824.

We don’t have any other information about the brotherhood from that moment, so it is evident that it gradually ceased its activity; the destiny of the church was nearly the same: it was abandoned and neglected for over a century. In 1930, however, Raimondo Bistacci, a tireless director, journalist and printmaker of local newspaper “L’Etruria”, who loved his town, decided to renovate the building by restoring the loggia in front of the church. But the attempt to re-establish the forgotten Compagnia was not successful. On the contrary, the brotherhood was finally reconstituted in 1952, thanks to Bistacci, General Nicola Bruni and Celestino Bruschetti, who wrote a new statute that was approved by Bishop Giuseppe Franciolini. The rest of the story is commonly known: the main aim is essentially to raise funds for the maintenance of the church and its works of art by carrying out a religious action for the common good. The interest for arts has always been a key point for the Compagnia: even if today the brothers and priors do not provide personally for the necessary money to invest, they still struggle to raise funds for different maintenance works.

Visitors of the church should think that even their contribution will be useful to make tradition and culture survive in order to keep the history of Cortona alive.