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Merate (Lecco): Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello

Foto Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello
Foto Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello
Foto Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello
Foto Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello
Foto Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in Sabbioncello
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Convent of Santa Maria Nascente in SabbioncelloThe history of the convent of Sabbioncello (the full name is Sanctuary and Convent of Santa Maria Nascente of Sabbioncello) began in the fifteenth century, when there was a small church with some annexed rooms in which a hermit named Claudio lived.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century it was granted to the small religious community that had grown up around the hermit to build a new church, the one visible today. The original orientation was however inverse to the current one, with the façade on the side where there is now the apse and vice versa.
The bell tower and the small cloister, to welcome pilgrims and poors, date back to that period (Fig. 5).
During the 16th century the sacristy and the refectory were added.
The orientation of the church was reversed in 1588.
In the seventeenth century the great cloister was built.
Over the centuries various orders alternated in the management of the convent. Convent which was suppressed by Napoleon in 1810, restored in 1858, again suppressed in 1866 by the newborn Italian state and finally restored in 1898.
Further additions and expansions took place even in the twentieth century. In particular, in 1967 the Via Crucis in cotto was added, a work of Father Nazareno Panzeri, along the road that leads to the convent.
Since the 80s of the twentieth century the convent has enjoyed numerous and extensive restoration works.

The church of Santa Maria Nascente comprehends a single room, with a gabled roof supported by pointed arches. The facade is very simple, enriched only by a pronaos in front of the entrance and by two terracotta bas-reliefs of the Via Crucis added in the twentieth century.
The interior of the church is asymmetric, with four deep chapels on the left side (plus a smaller service space immediately to the left of the entrance), while the right wall is flat and almost completely frescoed.

Of the chapels, the most interesting is the first, called of the Crucifix, by virtue of the presence in it of an ancient crucifix of the sixteenth century that had originally belonged to Cardinal Federico Borromeo. In addition to the crucifix there are also six fragments of the frescoes that originally covered the walls of the chapel, most likely in large part. Painted in 1593 by the Fiamminghini, they depict four bishops plus two group scenes.
The other chapels are dedicated to the Crowned Virgin, to Sant'Antonio and to San Francesco.
The windows of the chapels are recent (by Alberto Ceppi).
The frescoes that decorate the parts of the wall above the chapels are heterogeneous: above the chapel of the Crucifix there is a recent crucifixion with dark colors that in style recalls Edvard Munch. Above the Incoronata chapel there is a Madonna surrounded by saints of the Luinese school, while above the chapel of San Francesco there is an ancient but more coarse fresco depicting Christ and Saint Francis both carrying the cross on their shoulders.

What most strikes the visitor, however, is certainly the right wall, almost completely covered with frescoes. These are sixteenth century votive frescoes, i.e. frescos painted as thanks for a received grace. They are therefore the work of different artists and the quality is consequently variable. Next to some rather naive ones, there are others of greater value. Among the latters, in particular, the fresco of 1515 by Thomas Malagridas (panel at the top left in the large picture). Many of the frescoes depict the Virgin with baby Jesus, which indicates that the grace had to do with conception and motherhood.

The presbytery is dominated by the main altar. Above it there is a dossal of the eighteenth century comprising an altar retable containing a statue of the Immaculate Virgin sculpted by friar Francesco da Vanzone in 1741. Also noteworthy are the two wardrobes on either side of the altar, with doors made up of two large paintings depicting two episodes of the life of San Francesco and the lower part decorated with scagliola.
A rich scagliola decoration (typical technique of the eighteenth century through which the inlaid marble was simulated by colored plaster) also characterizes the front wall of the altar table.

Remarkable is the choir (ie the apse, curiously separated from the rest of the presbytery by a high wooden partition extension with two doors on the sides of the main altar, a little bit reminding the iconostasis of the Orthodox churches).
The ceiling is completely occupied by frescoes depicting the doctors of the Catholic Church, painted in 1589 by Domenico Chiesotto (Fig. 3). They came back to light in the 80s of the twentieth century after remaining long hidden by layers of plaster. Originally the frescoes extended also on the ceiling of the presbytery, but that part was unfortunately lost.
On the underarch that divides the choir from the presbytery there are various Franciscan saints depicted. Finally, on the walls there are remains of frescoes from the Baroque period.
Of great value are the walnut, oak, chestnut and poplar seats of the late sixteenth century choir (Fig. 4).
The stained glass window is instead of the end of the twentieth century.
Precious furniture is also present in the sacristy.
In the small cloister (Fig. 5) there is a trompe l'oeil fresco depicting the climb to the Calvary and a fountain with the shape of an ancient well in the center, a work of 1957 by Dino Bonalberti.
In the large cloister there are three sundials.

A special mention deserves the hall of the crucifix, whose name derives from the fact that it hosts a large torn and relocated fresco (probably by the Fiamminghini) depicting Christ on the cross with the Virgin, St. Mary Magdalene, St. John, St. Francis and the Blessed Amadeo da Silva.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value


Via S. Antonio da Padova, 5, 23807 Merate LC