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Benna (Biella)- Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces

Foto Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces -  of historical value  of naturalistic value
Foto Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces -  of historical value  of naturalistic value
Foto Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces -  of historical value  of naturalistic value
Foto Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces -  of historical value  of naturalistic value
Foto Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces -  of historical value  of naturalistic value
Show to visit in the Biella area:
Places  of historical value  of naturalistic value in the Biella area: Oratory of Saint Mary of GracesThe Oratory of Santa Maria delle Grazie is located in the center of the town, not far from the Parish church of St. Peter. It is a small rectangular building of sixteenth-century origin, later modified in the Baroque era, in particular with the addition of a small bell gable.
From 1870 the oratory also served as the seat of the Company of the Daughters of Mary, and remained so until 1965, when the company died out.

The side walls are marked externally by pilasters which partly thicken towards the bottom like small buttresses and on top a cornice runs along the whole building. The facade is very simple, with two pilasters on the sides and a triangular pediment above. In the lunette that surmounts the architrave of the entrance is depicted a Virgin Mary whose mantle is laterally supported by two angels. The work was painted in 1989 and recalls the Virgin painted by Gaspare da Ponderano in the chapel at the head of the right lateral nave of the Church of St. Peter.

Internally the small church, very bright thanks to the presence of seven windows in the side walls and three in the counter-fa├žade, is as simple as the outside, but it is not without elegance. The cover is a barrel vault with lunettes. The walls are punctuated by pilasters and along the entire internal perimeter, apart from the counter-facade, a double cornice runs between the walls and the ceiling. Furthermore, in correspondence with the altar, the upper frame takes the form of a broken pediment with an empty stucco frame above.
The presbytery is enriched by frescoes painted in 1501 by Gaspare da Ponderano (as attested by a scroll depicted on the back wall) in a style between late Gothic and Renaissance. It is in fact one of the only two works signed explicitly by the painter from Biella. They were only rediscovered in 1989, following the restoration promoted by the then parish priest Delmo Lebole, a great scholar of the religious cultural heritage of the Biella area. Like all the frescoes by Gaspare da Ponderano, and by almost all the artists active in country towns, they are very naive paintings, far behind in style compared to the latest fashions in vogue in the big cities and with characters who often look alike because of the recycling of shapes and cartons for many different frescoes. Nonetheless, they are engaging and spontaneous depictions, with a great emotional impact.
The back wall was originally entirely occupied by the frescoes by Gaspare da Ponderano, organized within a half moon frame delimited by a band with upside-down shells depicted inside (large figure).
In 1823, however, a niche was created in the center of the wall to house the statue of the Virgin of the Rosary in carved wood sculpted in that year by Pietro Boffa from Tavigliano and then painted by Defabianis. In this way the Nativity depicted in the center was largely lost. A part of the hut and half of what could have been St. Joseph are still visible. Note, resting on one of the beams of the roof, a goldfinch, an allegorical symbol of the passion that the newborn will undergo as an adult.
To the left of the hut (for the viewer) St. Sebastian and Saint Nicholas of Tolentino are depicted. On the right, instead, are visible St. Gotthard in bishop's clothes and a curious character, presented as St. Onofrius, but who is actually the so-called "wild man", a pagan folklore character symbol of the pre-social and anti-social nature of man. This character is present in various other Piedmontese churches, among those described on this site for example in the Church of St. Peter in Carpignano Sesia, where it appears on the right wall of the central apse.
The background on which these figures are represented, is made up, in the left half, by of dense fronds of fruit trees, depicted in a non-realistic but purely decorative and even abstract way.
On the left wall there are instead some votive frescoes depicting male and female saints within colored frames, also attributed to Gaspare da Ponderano (Fig. 4). From left to right there is a largely lost Francis of Assisi, still recognizable on the basis of the monk's robe and the wound on his side, a saint dressed as a bishop or pope whose head has been lost and then three female saints: Agate, Apollonia and Lucy. Each of them is easily recognizable thanks to her iconographic attributes: Agate is holding large pliers gripping an amputated breast, Apollonia is holding pliers gripping a tooth and Lucia is holding a saucer with two open eyes on it.
All the saints just listed (except for St. Francis, of whom nothing can be said since his arms are no longer visible) hold the book (the Gospel) in one of their hands or under one of their arms. The three frescoed female saints are also interesting because depicted in a realistic way, and therefore allow you to get an idea of the clothes and hairstyles typical of the period between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the Biella area, a period in which, evidently, damask fabrics and very high belts were great fashion.
Finally, on the right wall there is a Saint Job (Fig. 5), it seems, however, that this time it is the work of a different artist. Originally there must have been other frescoes as well, but the opening of a window halfway up the right wall led to their almost complete loss.

Categories: Places of historical value of naturalistic value


Via Roma, 5, 13871 Benna BI
Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces: Further pictures in the section Photography
Benna (Biella, Italy): Back wall of the presbytery of the Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces
Benna (Biella, Italy): Presbytery of the Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces
Benna (Biella, Italy): Saints on the left intenal wall of the Oratory of Saint Mary of Graces