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Campiglia Cervo (Biella)- Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno

Foto Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno -  of historical value  of artistic value
Show to visit in the Biella area:
Places  of historical value  of artistic value in the Biella area: Sanctuary of San Giovanni of AndornoThe Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno is the only sanctuary dedicated to St. John the Baptist in Italy (and perhaps in Europe). The oldest document referring to it dates back to 1512 and refers to St. John the Baptist of balma (local word for cave). The cult of Saint John has ancient origins. According to a legend a statue of the saint was found by shepherds in a cave and several times brought by them to the summer pastures, but every time the statue miraculously returned to the cave of origin.

The first version of the church dates back to 1605. It was then enlarged over time.
The current typical late Baroque structure of the sanctuary is the result of the third construction phase (1738 - 1781) developed from an expansion of the sacristy and the choir performed by the architect Bernardo Vittone. The interior consists of a large nave with two chapels on each side, dedicated to the parents of John the Baptist (St. Elizabeth and St. Zacharias) and to the parents of Jesus (Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph). The cover is made up by cross voults. The one above the altar, with the figures of the four evangelists, was frescoed by the Brothers Galliari native of the nearby town of Andorno Micca. The paintings that adorn the church testify to the importance that the local artists had: Bernardino Galliari should be the author of the altarpiece on the main altar, while Giovanni Antonio Cucchi from Campiglia Cervo (1674,?) painted the canvases placed on two altars of the left side. In 1934 the large square of 4,000 m2 in front of the sanctuary was tidied up and surrounded by the varius buildings: tavern, hospice and the college. In the center of the area there is an eighteenth-century typical "burnell" (local word for fountain), built of local stone, with spoonbills tied to chains to make it possible to drink the water comfortably.

It is worth highlighting the remarkable similarities between the interior of the church of the Sanctuary of San Giovanni of Andorno and that of the coeval Church of Santa Francesca Romana in Milan. Apart from the obvious color difference (gray here, brick red in the the other one) and from the fact that this has an almost square plan, while the one in Milan has a typical plan of a latin cross, many details are identical: the relationship between the development in height and that in width, the presence of two orders of cornices to separate the vertical elements from the covering and of a large arch decorated with stuccos and coats of arms, the smaller stages between the columns and various other details.
An element that differentiates the two churches on the other hand is the widespread use of the technique of trompe l'oeil, completely absent in the Milanese church and widely used in the one described on this page. This is the case for example of the dome of the presbytery, which in fact is totally smooth and that instead at first glance appears paneled and possessing a large balustrade at its base and of a lantern at the top. Similarly, the various side altars (eg the one in picture 3) seem much richer than what they really are.

The first chapel to the right contains the cave of the legend described above (photo 2) and from the outside we see that in fact the church has incorporated a piece of mountain.

In 1625 the five chapels constituent the sacred mountain were built, dedicated to holy hermits and penitents (originally there were six chapels, but one was destroyed in the first half of the twentieth century by a truck carrying a load of granite). Unfortunately, those that remain are in a very bad state. With a simple structure, they have interiors decorated by the painter Pietro Lace of Andorno (early eighteenth century), the same who painted the frescoes in the Church of San Giovanni in Veglio and in the Large Church of the Sanctuary of the Moorland. It is therefore certain that they would deserve a careful restoration, based on the talent of this artist.

We must also remember the Great Bell (photo 5), the large squat bell tower in a strategic position at a short distance from the sanctuary and equipped with the largest bell of the Biella area (4.50m circumference). The bell was casted in place in 1764 because it was too large to come transported. Its sound was once a warning to the entire Upper Cervo Valley in case of major events. Currently its sound is muffled by the thick woods that have grown around the tower replacing the meadows initially present.

More pictures of the Sanctuary of San Giovanni di Andorno on this web site

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Strada Provinciale Valle del Cervo, Ospizio San Giovanni BI