Built in the Middle Ages to store weapons and artillery, the Church of S. Giovanni Battista,
also known as the “chiesona”, is situated in the medieval historical centre of the village,
leaning against the principal wall of the city boundary. Its construction dates back to the 16th century.
On the entrance gate there is an early medieval bas-relief depicting evangelical symbols
while the trussed roof stands directly on the gallery of the walls.
The bell tower was instead built in the early twentieth century, designed by Lorenzo Porciatti, in neo-Gothic style with references to Moresque architecture.
Along with a precious 17th century silver case, the Church of S. Giovanni Battista also
houses the relics (parts of the arms and legs) belonging to the city’s patron saint, Guglielmo di Aquitania, also known as “di Malavalle”.
Lost between history and myth, the identity of this saint is still uncertain in many ways.
Based on his first biography written by his disciple Alberto, Guglielmo was a knight belonging to a noble lineage of Aquitaine, who was excommunicated by the Pope for his dissolute and sinful conduct. Caught up in remorse, he then dedicated himself to a life of corporal penitence.
Following his encounter with San Bernardo di Chiaravalle, which marked his own
conversion, San Gugliemo retired to a life of hermitry and underwent another severe
“Dressed in the naked flesh of an iron armor and with limbs wrapped in chains over a robe of Cilician cloth” (Alberto).
What we know for sure is that Guglielmo, because of the hard fasts, died on February 10th
in 1157 in the Malavalle, where the legend tells that he killed the Dragon that was raging in
the surrounding woods.