The lost church of the Holy Mary of Grace and Saint John and its monastery
Before the present cathedral, the parish church of Valvasone was the church (no longer in existence since 1866) dedicated to Holy Mary of Grace and Saint John (the Baptiste or the Evangelist), which, after the construction of the new temple, was downgraded becoming a co-parish church and, with changing fortunes (in 1485 was entrusted with the Serviti friars, replaced by the Dominican ones that remained there up to 1770), slowly but inexorably declined until it was eventually demolished in 1866.
The church, erected beyond the “walls” and also hit by the Turkish invasion in 1499, surely dates back to 1330 and earlier, the year when it was decided to reconstruct it as the existing building had become decrepit. In 1355, when Valvasone broke away from the mother church of San Giorgio della Richinvelda and became an ‘independent’ parish church, a Confraternity of the ‘Graces’ linked to the church was recognised and, among its privileges, this confraternity could organise processions to plead for rain, showing the Sacred Images; also a Confraternity dedicated to the Holy Rosary referred to it.
In 1668, three years after the arrival of the Dominican friars (in 1665) works commenced to relocate the sacred building and lasted for approximately twenty years, giving rise to a church with seven altars. Since the middle of the 14th century, one of those altars probably stored the icon that depicts the Breastfeeding Madonna or (Galactotrofusa), now at the cathedral, a precious painting dating back to the fist half of the 14th century, ascribed to a workshop belonging to the so-called “Adriatic school”, an object that has always been the subject of a strong popular devotion.
What remains of the Monastery annexed to the ancient church is the cloister of the Serviti, which was placed before it, in a building, now privately owned (in the square of Via IV Novembre), which shows a primitive 15th-century structure, especially evident in the frontal with an open gallery and an elegant Renaissance-style gateway, although heavily modified in the 19th century.
Furthermore, the present Presbytery rises on the remains of the Dominican Monastery, once located beside the church, demolished in 1866 after having been abandoned for almost a century. The two wings remain and form an orchard with a lovely rusticated arcade, restored after the 1976 earthquake, through a series of works which terminated in 1986.