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Romano di Lombardia (Bergamo, Italy): Basilica of San Defendente

Foto Basilica of San Defendente
Foto Basilica of San Defendente
Foto Basilica of San Defendente
Foto Basilica of San Defendente
Foto Basilica of San Defendente
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Basilica of San DefendenteThe Basilica of San Defendente represents the most important church of Romano di Lombardia, although not the one that is most noticeable, given that it is set back between the imposing parish church and the neo-Gothic Church of Santa Maria of Lourdes (aka Church of the Cave). In addition, the gray façade completed only in the twentieth century around the late Renaissance portal does not portend anything of the richness of colors and decorations of the interior (Fig. 4), richness that almost hides the anomaly of the internal structure, which includes a lateral nave only on the left side, but not on the right side.

The Basilica of San Defendente was built following the salvific apparition of the saint to a man called Tolotto from Stezzano, on the occasion of a plague. For the grace received the community had the sanctuary erected, destroying various older oratories that were already on the site.
Originally there was only one nave, the current central one, with a barrel vault and only four side altars in shallow rectangular chapels. The last two in fact served as improper transept. But already in 1577 these too were granted to the Confraternities of the Holy Trinity and of the Holy Rosary to erect their own altars. The presbytery was originally shallow, limited by the need not to invade the walkway inside the town walls. The current very high presbytery, elongated up to the ancient medieval walls by means of a high monumental staircase, allowed the maintenance of the underlying military walkway; it was built from 1642 to 1644 on a project by the Roman architect Gio Antonio Rossi Polissena.
The left lateral nave was built in 1940 to a design by the architect Barboglio. According to the project it would have had to correspond to a symmetrical right aisle which however was not realized also because this would have involved the destruction of the old seventeenth-century sacristy and of the above seat of the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament.
The pictorial decoration of the basilica took a rather long time to be completed, so as to bring to the coexistence of both renaissance and neoclassical elements, fused however in a harmonious way.
The decoration of the church structure is neoclassical (although the choice of bright colors and the use of the trompe l'oeil technique are still rococo), realized by Filippo Comerio at the end of the eighteenth century. To him we owe the entire decoration of the vault of the main nave and of the presbytery, in which an articulated system of large panels of different conformation unfolds, illustrated with the stories of the life of the titular saint. The panels are connected to each other by fake moldings, cornices, rosettes and symbolic ornaments.

The building can be considered a gallery of paintings and artworks from different periods. Particularly noteworthy in the Chapel of the Crucifix (first left chapel) is the large canvas by Aurelio Gatti, known as Il Sojaro, a painter from Cremona active between the sixties of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries also in Soncino, Crema and around Crema. The work (Fig. 1) was financed in particular by the Suardi family, so that the four Suardi brothers, Gianandrea, Giambattista, Lauro and Ludovico, let Aurelio Gatti portray them, lower right dressed in black, devoutly kneeling under the protection of Saint Defendente, dedicatee of the church and patron of Romano.
Valuable is also the altarpiece in the third left chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity (Fig. 4), painted in 1606 by Enea Salmeggia and in which the Trinity is depicted between the saints Mary Magdalene and Bernardo from Mentone.

On the opposite wall, in the first chapel on the right (Fig. 3), you can find one of the last altars of the province dedicated to the Christian Doctrine, above which it is possible to admire a lunette painted by Andrea Pozzo representing Jesus' dispute in the temple.

In 1590 Aurelio Gatti also painted the altarpiece representing the salvific apparition of Saint Defendente to the plague victims outside the walls of Romano. The painting contains a faithful representation of the town as it appeared at the end of the sixteenth century, with the walls, the fortress and the fourteenth-century parish church.

The church also conserves two valuable paintings from the Baroque period by Pietro Ricchi (1606-1675) from Lucca: the two large paintings depicting San Defendente and Sant'Alessandro on the side walls of the chapel of the Pietà (second on the left), founded by the brotherhood of SS. Trinity at the end of the sixteenth century.

Finally, of the Neapolitan Pietro Mango are two large canvases on the side walls of the front part of the presbytery.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Via Torquato Tasso, 13, 24058 Romano di Lombardia BG
Further pictures of Basilica of San Defendente in the section Photography
Romano di Lombardia (Bergamo, Italy): Interior of the Basilica of San Defendente
Romano di Lombardia (Bergamo, Italy): Trinity of Enea Salmeggia in the Basilica of San Defendente
Romano di Lombardia (Bergamo, Italy): Crucifixion of Aurelio Gatti in the Basilica of San Defendente
Romano di Lombardia (Bergamo, Italy): Altar of the Christian Doctrine  in the Basilica of San Defendente