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Soncino (Cremona): Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

Foto Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Foto Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Foto Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Foto Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Foto Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Church of Santa Maria delle GrazieThe Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Soncino is a true jewel of Renaissance art which hides behind a sober and austere facade an interior completely covered with magnificent frescoes.
The church is located on the edge of the village, along the old road to Cremona.
It was built starting from 1501, together with an adjacent convent, by the Carmelites in place of a pre-existing medieval church that was incorporated into the new building.
The project is probably by father Antonio Maestri, former prior of the convent of Soncino and certainly superintendent of the works.
The church was consecrated in 1528, in the presence of Francesco Sforza who had financed the internal decoration.
The bell tower had already been built in the years 1515-1516.
The church was adopted by the Marquises Stampa, who took over from the Sforza family, as a family pantheon. In 1536 Charles V, right in this church, had invested Massimiliano Stampa of the Marquisate of Soncino.
In 1772, when the convent was suppressed, its lands were auctioned by the government, while furnishings and furniture of the church were sold off by the competent bishop. Among them there was also an altarpiece by Giulio Campi, now in Brera.

The exterior of the church is in exposed brick. The façade, divided into three parts by two pilasters, is very simple and essential. The only decorations are the imposing bramante-style portal, built in white marble of Rezzato (Botticino marble) and the rose window framed by a terracotta frieze that surmounts it.
In the past there were also two frescoes depicting San Cristoforo and Sant'Antonio superimposed on fifteenth-century triptychs. Unfortunately, little has remained of them.
The church has a rectangular plan and a single room without a transept. The nave is divided in three parts by two pilasters and has a high barrel-vaulted ceiling and five chapels on each side, all of equal size.
The interior receives light through five round windows on each side, placed inside the lunettes, plus the larger rose window placed in the façade.
To be noted, inside, the terracotta friezes depicting plant elements that extend between the side walls and the ceiling of the nave and, more subtle, between the walls of the chapels and their vaults and along the edges of these. They were made by the local plastier G. Antonio Pezzoni.
The interior surfaces are almost completely occupied by spectacular frescoes. They are the works of G. Francesco Scanzi, Giulio Campi and Francesco and Bernardino Carminati:

  • The counter-façade is occupied in the lower part by a spectacular fresco of the Last Judgment. In the upper part, on the other hand, there are on the sides of the rose window St. Peter and St. Paul, while above it there is God the Father.
    All representations are vigorous, both in color and in the details: the various charachters are represented each with their own attitude and their own mimicry, Jesus Christ has both arms raised, in an attitude that underlines the drama of the moment, while the clouds of the sky appear similar to the foam of the waves of a stormy sea. Note the terrible monster in the lower right corner, where the damned end up in the open jaws!
    In the upper part, on the contrary, the Saints Peter and Paul are represented on the background of an idyllic landscape in which villages, cultivated fields and woods alternate.
    The frescoes in the counter-façade are the work of the Carminati brothers.

  • Carminati brothers' work is also the splendid decoration of the vault, divided into five sectors corresponding to the five spans of the church.
    Each sector contains five medallions representing characters corresponding to a specific theme.
    The medallions are surrounded by plant-themed decorations, while the bands separating the various sectors are decorated with grotesques.

  • Also the representations of prophets in the lunettes housing the round windows of the walls are were painted by the Carminati.

  • The first, the fourth and the fifth chapel on the left and the chapels on the right were frescoed by Francesco Scanzi with various subjects, including Madonna and Child, Escape to Egypt, Annunciation, Apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and saints. The third chapel on the left was instead frescoed by Vincenzo Berlenghi, a scholar and helper of Scanzi.

  • The presbytery has a cross vault in the sails of which Giulio Campi represented the evangelists (Fig. 4). Also in this case the dividing strips are decorated with grotesques.

  • A further work of Giulio Campi is the great fresco on the triumphal arch depicting the Virgin in glory surrounded by musician angels.
    Although chromatically this fresco is in perfect harmony with the one in the counter-façade, looking better you notice that the drama is replaced by joy and serenity, with chubby angels and playful attitudes.

  • In the apse, with a polygonal base and semicircular vault divided by ribs into segments, there are finally rounds with busts of Carmelite saints.
    They came to light when the frescoes depicting prophets and Carmelite saints were ripped off.


Overall, the pictorial decorations inside the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie di Soncino are of a very high level and have nothing to envy, in the opinion of the writer, to those of the roughly coeval and more famous Church of San Maurizio at the Maggiore Monastery in Milan and Church of San Vittore in Meda. The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is in some respects even superior, as the elegant solution of the ceiling with plant-based decorations on a light blue nearly white background conveys a sense of lightness that in the other two, with a ceiling with grotesque decorations on a dark background, it is not present.

See also:
Page about Soncino in this web site

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value


Via Francesco Galantino, 26029 Soncino CR
Foto aggiuntive della Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie nella sezione Fotografia
Soncino (Cremona): Interior of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Ceiling of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Counterfacade of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Detail of the ceiling of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Presbytery and great arch in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Ceiling of the presbytery of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Nave of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Upper part of the great arch in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Bottom of the Interior of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Chapel of the Saints John the Baptist and Evangelist in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Soncino (Cremona): Chapel of the Magdalene in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie