The complex formed by the convent and church of
San Francesco, built starting in 1661 by the Friars Minor of the
Observance of the Rule of Saint Francis, has housed Savigliano's
Civic Museum, name for Antonino Olmo, since 1970.
Construction of the cloister began in 1662 and the south, east and west sides were erected first. The church, with six side chapels and a nave, took many years to complete: the foundations were laid in 1670, the large brick façade was built between 1720 and 1740, and the edifice was finally consecrated in 1743.
After the suppression of the religious orders (1802-14) the Franciscans abandoned the monastery for good 1867. The complex was then used as for military purposes, as a school and as a residential complex until 1968.
One of the characteristics of the layout is the cloister with four arcades, marked by very simple lines, materials and decorations. The entrance and arcade boast an important series of 32 frescoed lunettes dating back to the 18th century, depicting scenes of Franciscan martyrs.
The Civic Museum houses a number of artefacts
and artistic masterpieces of great regional importance. On the
ground floor, archaeological artefacts include the Lombard
tombstone of the Venerable Gudiris (late seventh century); there is
also an unusual collection of furnishings (ceramics, glassware,
boxes, equipment) that belonged to the pharmacy of the hospital of
Santissima Annunziata (seventeenth-nineteenth centuries). Temporary
exhibitions are frequently staged in the ancient refectory.
The first floor houses art collections dating from the late fifteenth century up to the contemporary period. There are important private donations, such as the Pensa di Marsaglia bequest (Flemish triptych with the Stories of Job, altarpieces by Ludovico Brea, Defendente Ferrari and others), works by the famous Savigliano school of painters, whose artists worked throughout the Piedmont between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Giovanni Antonio Molineri, Sebastiano Carello, Jean Claret); souvenirs from the Romantic era that belonged to the Milanollo sisters, violinists from Savigliano; paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth century collected by Attilio Bonino.
Through its iconographic and documentary archives, the museum illustrates important moments in the live of Savigliano and its noble families (such as the Derossi di Santa Rosa, Cravetta, Taffini).
Recently reorganized (2005-9), it uses
intriguing communicational instruments such as the "Speaking
Portraits", which flank traditional guided tours.
The Gallery of Plaster Casts dedicated to Davide Calandra is nationally renowned and boasts over 100 casts, preliminary studies, and plaster and terracotta models by the Turin sculptor (1856-1915). It occupies the entire large conch of the old church (500 square metres of exhibition space). Several enormous works are striking, such as the Quadriga of the monument to Zanardelli in Brescia, the Weeping Italy of the Monument to King Humbert in Rome, and the cast for the frieze in the Italian Parliament Hall at Montecitorio.
Completely restructured and reorganized in 2002, the Gallery of Plaster Casts in Savigliano is a key part of Piedmont's regional network of five collections of plaster casts open to the public.