The discovery of a tablet under the altar in
1822 led scholars to believe that the church was built over the
ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. The block,
comprising Piazza Molineris, Via San Pietro, Via San Francesco and
Piazza Misericordia, is considered one of the first settlements in
According to tradition, Saint Faustus founded the monastery in 585. The complex was re-established and rebuilt in 1028, and it rapidly became a religious and administrative centre of great importance for Savigliano and southern Piedmont. The church was constructed in the Romanesque style with a nave and two aisles with an east-west orientation, set close to cloister to the north, in keeping with medieval tradition.
From 1434 until 1436, when the university was
moved to Savigliano, exams were held and theses discussed in the
monastery church before the abbot, who served as vice chancellor of
the bishop of Turin.
In 1599 the architect Ercole Negri of Sanfront oversaw general refurbishment work, giving the church its current Mannerist appearance. Around 1600 the decorative work of the choir was completed by the Saluzzo artist Cesare Arbasia, who probably painted some of the medallions in the nave, several of which were frescoed over in between 1850 and 1854 by the painter Domenico Cardellino.
In the second half of the seventeenth century
work was done to embellish the church and monastery, involving
artists such as Giovenale Boetto and Sebastiano Taricco.
The imposing bell tower was built between 1722 and 1726; attributed to Francesco Gallo, it replaced its predecessor documented from 1329.
The façade we see today dates back to 1822 and still presents three exquisite marble portals with three seventeenth-century doors by the Botto, a family of inlayers. Restoration work on the building commenced in the late 1960s and was completed with the work on the façade, finished in 2007.
The church houses numerous works of art. Gandolfino da Roreto designed the imposing apsidal polyptych (1510); Giovanni Antonio Molineri painted the two frescoes in the presbytery, the Martyrdom of Saint Paul and the Martyrdom of Saint Peter (1621), as well as Saint Jerome, one of the artist's later works. The splendid sculpted triptych, Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John, has been attributed to Pietro Botto, as have the exquisite choir seats (1630) and the wardrobe in the Sacristy (1629-30). The grotesques in the apse are the work of the Dolce school. The choir by the Tiffner brothers (1649-54) can be seen on the sides of the presbytery. The church also houses the Roman tablet of the gens Gavia (at the high altar), one of the most important Roman artefacts found in the area, and a lovely baptismal font from 1498.
The harmonious and simple square cloister was
completed in 1621. It is bounded by two-storey structures
punctuated by arcades on the ground floor, while the upper section
is characterized by a simple sequence of windows. The exception is
the north wing, in which the façade of the upper floor is
cadenced by the sequence of small double arches, opening up towards
a deep loggia in the middle.
The garden, completed in 2006, was designed based on the previous one and its main paths form a Greek cross inscribed in a square, with a well in the middle. This classical arrangement is overlaid by a secondary one, diagonal to the first one, with four paths that lead directly to the entrances. Hedges form the simple outline of the flower beds.