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Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Church of Santa Maria Assunta

Foto Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Foto Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Foto Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Foto Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Foto Church of Santa Maria Assunta
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Church of Santa Maria AssuntaThe parish church of Santa Maria Assunta in Orta San Giulio is one of the jewels of the Novara baroque.
It dominates the town, being at the top of the road leading to the cemetery, at the point where the road bends to the left.

The first version of the church was built starting from 1485 as a votive offering to the Virgin of the Consolation, on the occasion of the end of an epidemic.
It was much smaller than the present one, still built in a predominantly Romanesque style and was not yet a parish church, depending on the parish church of San Giulio, from which it became independent only in 1590.
The first dedication was to the Vergin of Mercy.
The transition to the dedication to the Madonna of the Assumption took place officially in 1560, when it obtained parochial rights, although, in official documents, the title of parish church of Santa Maria Assunta appeared only around 1700.

Over the centuries the church underwent many changes and enlargements, particularly between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, due to the provisions issued by the Council of Trent on the subject of religious buildings.
However, the first enlargement took place in the sixteenth century.
In the middle of the seventeenth century the church was paved and, where before there was the sacristy, was built the chapel of the Rosary (right chapel). Towards the end of the seventeenth century the chapels were decorated and set up.
Between 1698 and 1725 the church underwent profound structural changes, with the construction of the dome above the presbytery, the vault of the apse and the dome of the chapel of the Rosary.
The facade was modified several times, up to the current version designed by Carlo Nigra in 1940.

Facade: Characterized by an intense orange-yellow color, it has a salient structure softened by curves that recall the Baroque and is embellished with stuccos. At the apex there are a statue of the Virgin and of two angels. The facade is a reconstruction of 1941 by the architect Carlo Nigra, while the prothyrum (which is accessed by means of three staircases, an older central and two lateral ones built later) dates back to the seventeenth century.
Interesting is the portal, which tends to be overlooked, perhaps because from a distance it is hidden by the prothyrum and when you are near the gaze tends to be attracted from the inside.

It is carved in local stone, the serpentine of Oira, and is one of the oldest elements of the church. On the pilasters, on the capitals and on the underarch there are carved decorations of different styles. On the side pilasters there are grotesque candelabra, typically Renaissance subjects. Among the reliefs it is possible to recognize the Virgin of the Assumption, which tends to exclude that the portal comes from the primitive church. The capitals seem to be recycled material. The bas-reliefs on the left capital represent oak leaves (symbol of strength and immortality), those on the right instead show two owls (which symbolize both darkness and vigilance) and, very particular, a motif linked to the Nativity, with two shepherds, two dogs, a sheep and a star.

The interior of the church has three naves separated by round arches supported by circular section stone columns with low and richly decorated capitals.
There are two deep side chapels, two smaller shallow chapels at the head of the side naves and two baptistries at the beginning of the side naves (the one on the left of the entrance is the current one, the other is the old one). The apse is polygonal in plan. Note that the floor is slightly uphill towards the apse.

Most of the interior surfaces, in particular the vaults and the walls of the central nave and of the presbytery, as well as the dome at the intersection with the transept, are decorated in rococo style consisting of architectural quadratures containing scenes from the Old Testament or angelic glories.
These decorations were made between 1751 and 1763 by the local painter Luca Rossetti as regards the figurative part. The quadratures were made by the Valsesia painter Orgiazzi.
On the arch in front of the presbytery is represented the coronation of the Virgin of the Assumption (large figure).
In the dome festive angels sing the glory of the Virgin (Fig. 3). Note that two angels hold bunches of roses, symbolic reference to the mystical Marian rose.
Under the arches of the naves there are medallions and golden mixtilinear panels in which biblical scenes are represented, in particular, stories of the women of the Old Testament, which are compared to the figure of the Assumption: the coronation of Esther, the story of Jael, the story of Sisar up to the exploits of Judith and Holofernes (which occupies three medallions)
On the side walls, under the arches, there are also five large paintings made at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, of uncertain attribution and depicting episodes from the life of the Virgin. A sixth painting is currently in the oratory of the Holy Trinity.

To the left of the entrance entering there is the baptistery. The fresco on the back wall depicting the baptism of Christ was made in 1617 by the Morazzone school. An equivalent representation is still present on the wall of the old baptistery, at the right of the entrance, attributed to Giacomo Filippo Monti, painter of Orta also active at the Sacro Monte and the Basilica on the Island of San Giulio.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart: It is the chapel at the head of the left side nave. The current dedication dates back only to 1949. Previously it was dedicated to San Carlo and then to San Giuseppe. The altar of the seventeenth century comes from a no longer existing chapel in the Church of San Quirico. At the center of the retable there is an altarpiece from the sixteenth century by an unknown Lombard artist depicting a Christ Scourged between Saints Bernardino and Marta.
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception: It is the chapel at the head of the right side nave. Originally it was dedicated to San Giulio. In the center it contains a niche in which there is a wooden statue of the Immaculate Conception (1783) which with one foot tramples the head of a dragon bearing an apple in its mouth and pierced by an arrow. Around the niche C. Grossi painted in 1922 angels in tempera.
Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament: It is the left chapel. The current appearance of the chapel dates back to the eighteenth century.
The altarpiece is represented by a Last Supper of the seventeenth century, a copy of the Last Supper by Gaudenzio Ferrari preserved in the Church of Santa Maria della Passione in Milan. It is inserted in a golden frame of the early eighteenth century. The vault decorations were first made in 1711 by the local painter Pietro Rossetti, then redone in the same style at the beginning of the twentieth century.
In a large niche on the right wall there is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows of the second decade of the eighteenth century and one of the Dead Christ, slightly older.
On the side walls there are two paintings, one of Moses receiving the plates of the Law, from the period between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and an oval with San Pietro Avellino, attributed to the last period of Giovanni Battista Cantalupi, ie between 1778 and 1780.
Chapel of the Rosary: It is the right chapel. It owes its present appearance to the renovation ordered by Gerolamo Gemelli in the second half of the eighteenth century, of whose family it represented the noble chapel as well as the family sepulcher.
The chapel however had already been built between 1653 and 1661 and destined for the Confraternity of the Rosary.
The altar is still the marble one that was installed between 1673 and 1677.
The statue of Our Lady of the Rosary in the center, however, is a painted terracotta statue simulating marble, work of Carlo Beretta dating back to the reorganization by Gerolamo Gemelli. To it also dates back the black marble display case for the relics in the left wall.
The pictorial decoration of the chapel was entrusted by Gemelli to the local painter Giovanni Battista Cantalupi, who transformed the chapel into a sort of rococo casket, in which in the representations of religious themes overlap with references to the client's family environment.
On the sides of the statue of the Virgin are therefore represented, on trompe l'oeil pedestals, the Saints Dominic and Rose of Lima (the second one tribute to the wife of Gemelli, Rosa Manzoni, paternal aunt of the author of the famous writer).
On the side walls are represented, on the left, Sant'Ottavio (name of the father and of a brother) and San Carlo and, on the right, San Gerolamo and Santa Caterina d'Alessandria (name of the mother). Above the four saints four trompe l'oeil paintings with scenes taken from the Song of Songs. It should be noted that the biblical scenes were represented with a style more suitable for secular scenes.
On the right wall hangs a painting by Giulio Cesare Procaccini depicting The Procession of San Carlo during the plague.
On the sides of the entrance and on the underarch there are the Mysteries of the Rosary in the form of small green or purple monochrome scenes.
On the dome there is the Glory of the Virgin, while the spandrels are occupied by the allegories of virtues.

Presbytery and high altar
The presbytery is polygonal. Its vault of the apse is completely occupied by a large quadrature (coeval with those in the nave), in which a sky populated by flying angels seems to break in, so that part of the clouds hide the trompe l'oeil marble balustrade.
The lower part of the walls is occupied by the seats of a choir from the mid-seventeenth century.
In the upper part of the walls there are various paintings. In the center, inside a rich gilded wood frame, an Assumption among the Apostles, a mannerist work of uncertain attribution of the late sixteenth century. Immediately to the sides are two musician Angels from the workshop of Morazzone made between 1615 and 1617.
On the side walls, finally, on the left a precious Immaculate Conception by Stefano Maria Legnani, known as il Legnanino and, on the right, a Transit of the Virgin by his brother.
The current altar was installed in the seventeenth century and is in gilded wood. Very sophisticated in its drawings, carvings and monochrome painted scenes, it shows biblical scenes in bas-relief on its wall towards the nave. The door of the tabernacle bears a Last Supper. Note that for many decorations the meccatura technique was used, in which a special varnish is applied to a silver coating in order to let it appear like gold.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Via Caire Albertoletti, 28016 Orta San Giulio NO
Further pictures of Church of Santa Maria Assunta in the section Photography
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Dome of the Chapel of the Rosary in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Apse of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Left side of the interior of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Interior of the tiburium of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Dome of the tiburium of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Internal left side of the tiburium of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Interior of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Chapel of the Rosary in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy): Facade of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta