During the summer of 2020, during some work on the 'Doss' in Andalo, near Maso Toscana, traces of a forgotten place of worship, buried under layers of earth, re-emerged. The chance discovery, immediately reported by the Municipality of Andalo to the Superintendence for the Cultural Heritage of the Province of Trento, was fenced off and subsequently entrusted to the care of archaeologists. Earth and debris were removed until the base (floor and perimeter walls up to a height of about 1.5 metres) of a building was completely uncovered, which was recognised as the remains of an ancient church with sacristy and bell tower.
The first archaeological reports were presented to the community as early as October last year by Nicoletta Pisu of the provincial archaeological heritage office, which was followed by guided tours of the library for Andalo primary school pupils.
The first mention of the existence of a church on the "Doss" of Andalo is found in an urbario (book of cultivated land, land revenue and inventory of church property) dating back to 1462, in which the elements of legal obligation between the community of Andalo and the parish of Banale, which at that time had religious jurisdiction over Andalo and Molveno, are traced.
Another parchment of 1504 records the consecration of the high altar in the 'little church of Saints Vito, Modesto and Crescenzia', the commitment 'of those of Andalo to endow the new altar' and the presence of a cemetery. Don Carlo Roner, who was curate in Andalo from 1868 to 1888 and wrote the first 'Cronaca di Andalo' (Chronicle of Andalo), citing these documents, states that he can believe that a first consecrated church actually arose at the 'Doss' even at the beginning of the 15th century.
Certainly, work to rebuild the church dates back to 1536, a necessary intervention due to the increase in population. The inscription of the foundation year was carved in the centre of the architrave of the church's entrance door. In 1537, the church was completed and appeared among those visited by the delegates of the Prince-Bishop of Trento, Bernardo Clesio.
After less than 150 years, to cope with the growing number of inhabitants in the Andalo area, religious worship was transferred to the new church erected in 1782 at Maso Fovo. Still dedicated to Saints Vito, Modesto and Crescenzia Martyrs, the new church was "completed and blessed" in 1783 in the place where it still stands today. A third church, built in 1972-1974 in Piazza San Vito, is dedicated to the same saints.
The primitive building on the 'Doss' was abandoned, partly demolished, and many of its parts were salvaged for other constructions, as Don Roner recalls: some of the supporting brackets of the arches 'depicting angels' heads', taken from the ancient church, were reused in the walls of various houses in the village, just as some of the architrave marbles had become supporting stones for domestic fireplaces. Gradually, the collapsing walls and vegetation hid the sacred building from view. All that remained of the presence of the first church on the 'Doss' was a memory until the fortuitous discovery during work in recent months.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, however, traces of the cemetery wall were still visible, and during agricultural ploughing work, some remnants of artefacts surfaced among the clods.
What will now be the fate of this discovery? Excavations will probably resume in order to bring out all the secrets still hidden and give us a deeper knowledge of our history. It will then be a question of enhancing the discoveries that have returned the heart of its medieval 'foundation' to the community of Andalo, for the benefit of scholars, residents and tourists.
Article by Graziano Cosner for Paganella Dolomiti Magazine 14/21