The Museum "Osservatorio Cristiano"
The Pro Civitate Christiana “Osservatorio” (Observatory) is a multimedia centre for the documentation and study of the figure and work of Jesus Christ.
The formation process began in the 1940s with the first nucleus of the collection formed by the iconographic archive. The project stems from Don Giovanni Rossi's desire to create a place, originally to be identified with an art gallery, which was not a mere collection of works, but an evangelisation tool capable of bearing witness to how the contemporary interprets the figure of Christ, specifically the “Cristo lavoratore” (Worker Christ).
The first artistic commissions date back to the III Christian Studies Course of 1942 but, due to the war events, the first pieces that became part of the collection were works donated by some Volunteers of the original Association; for example the drawings by Alfredo Biagini and the sculpture Cittadella by Ettore Mazzini.
The first contemporary art exhibition was set up in 1949, curated by Dandolo Bellini and located in the foyer of the Metastasio Theatre in Assisi.
Since the 1950s, Don Giovanni Rossi has set the Observatory's objective to involve artists both through the commissioning of works of a Christological nature and through the staging of personal exhibitions of Christian art. Thus it was that starting from 1951, the first works on the “Worker Christ” subject became part of the Gallery's collection, in conjunction with the continuous succession of personal exhibitions and art reviews whose participants, encouraged by Don Giovanni, became potential patrons of the Gallery and contributed to the increase in the collection.
Following the growth of the collection of works a pressing need was to provide for their more stable and decorous location: between 1958 and 1960, based on a project by Pina Ciampani, the complex of the “Citadella” of the Pro Civitate Christiana of Assisi was built, to house the new cultural spaces of the Art Gallery, the Music archive, the Library and the Iconographic Collection.
In the 1950s William Congdon, an American painter, came into contact with the “Cittadella” and formed a lasting friendship with Don Giovanni Rossi, that also led to a spiritual change in William Condon and to his baptism in 1959.
An important step in the history of the Gallery was the acquisition, in 1961, of the complete series with the 58 pieces (series n. 329) of the Miserere by Georges Rouault
In 1966, works by Ciminaghi, Longaretti, Gemignani, Spatari and Villalta were entered, among others.
In 1966 the Gallery changed hands. Unfortunately, due to economic reasons, during this period the Gallery was unable to implement activities as they had previously done. Admittedly the major period of the acquisition of works of art, linked to patronage after the early 1960s, was over. In 1966 Pia Bruzzichelli left the direction of the Observatory.
Henceforth the Gallery is more autonomous, with the hopes of bringing in new acquisitions later but in smaller numbers. However, this is not only due to the lack of commissions but also the exceptional number of works already entered and the lack of further exhibition spaces.
After 1969 the tradition of travelling exhibitions continued, the main one being Rouault's Miserere in the 'didactic edition'. During the 1960s, despite a complete lack of funding, the Gallery implemented new activities of great interest, not for the acquisition of works but for education: art applied to therapy and catechesis for the community. The Gallery has also engaged in this area of research by asking and offering collaboration on the Umbrian territory. Important names in the seventies are Giacomo Santucci, Luciano Mazzetti and Carlo Brutti.
Expressive activities with kids in Cittadella have been taking place since the early 1960s.
The collection of thousands of drawings, largely of religious and Christian content, has allowed the formation of the first nucleus of a specific collection at the Gallery. Studies on this material have been published in "Rocca". Since 1980, following a project to make the Gallery available for school-museum-territory activities with children and teachers of the Elementary School - presented by Anna Nabot, head of the Gallery, to the Provveditorato agli Studi of Perugia - an articulated series begins of experiences, also compared with other educational sections of Italian museums, in particular with that of the Uffizi.
An earthquake hit Assisi in September 1997 and among other things, the building of the “Osservatorio” was shaken and had to be completely cleared out. The building’s restoration started soon after this event and later, between 2000 and 2005, the Gallery and the artworks warehouse were rearranged as well with the contribute of professionals such as Gian Piero Siemek, Paolo Rusconi and Aminta Marchetti.
In the last period, important innovations must be reported: the foundation of the “Associazione degli Amici dell’Osservatorio” (Friends of the Observatory Association) which aims to support the activities of the “Osservatorio”; the organisation of visits not only to the works in the Gallery but to the outdoor spaces and the works exhibited there; the setting up of interesting exhibitions in the space specially created for this on the ground floor of the “Osservatorio”; the inclusion of the Gallery in the general and the ecclesiastical and Umbrian museum system.