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Monza (Monza e Brianza): Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo

Foto Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Foto Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Foto Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Foto Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Foto Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Church of Santa Maria di CarrobioloThe church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo (or al Carrobiolo) despite being almost completely unknown to the general public, is a church that preserves inside numerous valuable works of art, both in the form of canvases and statues, and in the form of fresco decorations.

The current version of the church was built in the second half of the sixteenth century. The church, however, has more ancient origins, since the first version was erected between 1232 and 1234 in Romanesque style by the order of the Umiliati ("Humiliated").
In 1571 the order of the Umiliati was suppressed by Pope Pius V, to have some of his members even organized an attack against San Carlo, because he was working to impose a reform on the order that would put a halt to its practices not spiritual and too connected to material wealth.

The complex of the church and its convent was assigned by San Carlo to the Barnabite Fathers who, in 1573, began to renovate it, while preserving the structures of the church, the bell tower and the cloister. On 15 June 1584 San Carlo Borromeo consecrated the temple.

The complex grew over the years. From the seventeenth century it also became a college. In 1638 the seminar for philosophical studies was established. For its students was later built a further wing with arcades that is identified with the current left side of the former courthouse. Further acquisitions through purchases or donations followed later.

In the eighteenth century most of the rococo-style frescoes that decorate the interior surfaces of the church were made. Those in the side aisles were repainted in style in 1926 by Luigi Morgari.

In 1796 Napoleon established the Cisalpine Republic in Milan. As a result, until 1799 the complex was used as a cantonment for soldiers, both French and of the Cisalpine Republic.
In 1798 the Cisalpine Republic decided the forced nationalization and in 1810 Napoleon established the suppression of the religious orders. Various assets of the convent did not go missing thanks to the help of both the Municipality of Monza, which moved its headquarters to the college, and thanks to private citizens. In particular, the Marquis Carlo Arconati purchased a significant part of the nationalized assets, both mobile and immovable, and then left them as inheritance to the Barnabites.
They returned to the complex in 1825 and are still present today.

Regarding the origins of the term Carrobiolo there are various theories (however not too different from each other):

  • The word derives from "currus", that is the road traveled by carts, to underline that the church was not in an alley.
  • The word derives from "quadrivium", that is, the crossing of four roads.
  • "Carrobìolo" derives from a small "carrobbio", that is a small square for the parking of carts at the ancient city gates

The complex of the Church and Convent of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo occupies two sides of the square it faces.
Church and convent are aesthetically distinct: the wing of the convent that overlooks the square presents a very sober, almost severe, brickwork. The façade of the church is instead plastered and painted in light colors.

The facade of the church has a late Renaissance structure, with a marked horizontal and vertical division by means of pilasters and cornices. There are therefore two orders and three vertical sections (to reflect the division of the interior into three naves). The upper order, surmounted by a pediment, occupies only the central section and is connected with the lower order by curvilinear elements. Most of its surface is occupied by a large serliana.
The lower order has three portals. The central one is markedly larger than the side ones. Above these, however, there are two large bezel windows.
Noteworthy is also the Baroque portal of the convent, made of sandstone. It is characterized by the presence at the top of an oval niche containing a bust depicting Saint Paul (work by Elia Vincenzo Buzzi from 1731). Crossing it you find yourself in front of a second marble portal that frames a large solid wood door with relief decorations. On the inside, a simulated baroque portal corresponds to it, ie a trompe l'oeil fresco representation of a portal.

The interior of the church
The church has three naves, with the lateral ones about half wide and tall as the central one, from which they are separated by arches resting on circular columns. The central nave has a barrel vault with lunettes and four windows on each side placed at the top. Despite the presence of the large serliana on the façade and two windows in the apse the church is therefore rather dark.
It should be noted that the presbytery and choir are very deep, in proportion to the size of the nave, reaching almost to occupy half of the total internal length.
The presbytery and the areas corresponding to the last spans of the two aisles (areas thus becoming functionally comparable to two chapels) are located at a raised level with respect to the body of the church, a situation desired by the Barnabites since 1581 to emphasize the separation between the space intended to the faithful and the one reserved for celebrations.
The church then has only one other chapel, the chapel of the Sorrowful (now chapel of the Crucifix, Fig. 4), opened in the seventeenth century in the middle of the left side and of such dimensions as to possess the structure of a very small church, with its own presbytery and apse.
The frescoes in the vault of the central nave, including various quadraturas, were made between 1707 and 1709 by the Grandi Brothers of Varese. Andrea Porta was in charge of medals and figurative parts, assisted by Andrea Mazzolini.
At the center of the vault is represented St. Agata welcomed into heaven by the Virgin Mary and accompanied by a flight of angels, two of which hold the pincers and the palm of martyrdom; in the two adjacent spans the vision of the empyrean continues with a Glory of angels around the radiant dove and musician angels.
The frescoes in the vaults of the side naves, with saints, angels and quadraturas that recall the previous eighteenth-century decorations by G.B. Riccardi (1762), are the work of Luigi Morgari (1926).
Note in the main nave, between the arches, the tondos containing, on a golden background, relief busts of the Fathers of the Church.
On the counter-façadethere there is a splendid organ from the Monza area, made in 1850 by the Tornaghi family. It is located in a cantoria with a parapet decorated with gilded relief figures.
Of particular note is the Trompe-l'œil fresco decoration on the wall of the span which includes the internal side entrance from the convent corridor: it represents a terrace populated by angels, with a commemorative plaque in the center of the rededication in the 1584 of the church by San Carlo and above it an oval with a representation of the saint.
The quadrature is by Giovanni Battista Riccardi while the Angels and the oval with San Carlo in prayer are by Giovan Antonio Cucchi (1762).

The chapels
Chapel at the head of the left side nave
: It contains an altarpiece with St. Joseph and the Child (19th century) and an Altarpiece of the Sacred Heart, by G. B. Zalli (1839)
Chapel at the head of the right side nave: It houses the altarpiece with the Virgin between St. Paul and the Blessed Alexander, by G. B. Zalli (1839) and the Madonna of Providence by Emilio Parma (1922)
Chapel of the Crucifix (Fig. 4): The chapel is structured as a miniature church, with a square body and a rectangular apse on the side opposite to the entrance. Both spaces have a dome as a cover.
The most valuable artistic elements of the chapel are represented by the large seventeenth-century crucifix, attributed to Battista da Saronno and restored in 2008, and by the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, also from the seventeenth century. Worthy of mention, although recent, are the two great icons depicting Saint Paul (right) and the founder of the Barnabite order, Saint Anthonio Maria Zaccaria, depicted holding a model of the Church of the Saints Paolo and Barnaba in Milan and the altar consisting of a single block of marble. This last one is the work of friar Costantino Ruggeri and was donated in 1992 by the Paletti family in memory of their son Riccardo, Formula 1 driver, who died in a serious accident at the 1982 Montreal Grand Prix.
In the chapel there is also the sepulcher of the Arconati Visconti family. The frescoes on the walls were made by Luigi Morgari in 1926.

Presbytery and apse
As mentioned, the main chapel is rather deep. It is composed of two rectangular areas separated by the large high altar, next to which there are two passages closed by curtains.
The main altar in marble and gilded bronze was made by Carlo Nava in 1750. On the walls of the presbytery there are two paintings by Guglielmo Caccia known as il Moncalvo: the Assunta, on the left, and Sant'Agata on the right.
On the vault the Glory of Sant'Agata by Andrea Montalti (end of the 17th century).
The second area is occupied in the lower part by the walnut choir of 1582. At the center of the back wall is a marble statue of the Assunta (1858), surrounded by stucco angels. On the sides the statues of Solomon and David.
On the dome there is a Glory of the Virgin, a fresco by Luigi Trecout made in 1844. On the spandrels the four evangelists.

Bell tower
The bell tower still dates back to the medieval version of the church (which seems was built in 1339). About 30m high, it is therefore in typical Lombard Romanesque style, with a square plan, exposed brick structure and division into several levels with decorative hanging arches to indicate the passage between one level and another. The other decorative element is represented by large gray squared stones, especially in an angular position.
Each side of the penultimate level houses a large lancet window highlighted by a thick brick and stone frame.
The belfry instead has, on each side, a three-light window with small stone columns.
A clock is also present.

The church and the convent contain within them various valuable works of art . In particular we recall:

  • Wall of the first right span: Guglielmo Caccia known as the Moncalvo, Adoration of the Magi (1619)

  • Second right-span wall: Anonymous (late 16th century), Holy Family and Saints James, Philip and Orsola.

  • Fourth right span wall: Guglielmo Caccia known as the Moncalvo, Adoration of the shepherds (1619)

  • First left span wall: Riccardo de ’Tavolini, Marriage of the Virgin (seventeenth century)

  • Second left span wall: Simone Peterzano, Nursing Virgin with Saints Giovannino, Paolo, Pietro, Giuseppe and Elisabetta. Another work by the same author, Glory of All Saints is kept in the convent

  • Inside the convent, the "Sancti Caroli Donum", a canvas by Antonio Campi with the episodes of the Passion placed in a wooden retable.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Piazza Carrobiolo, 8, 20900 Monza MB
Further pictures of Chiesa di Santa Maria di Carrobiolo in the section Photography
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Interior of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Left aisle of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Trompe l 'oeil terrace populated with angels above the lateral entrance of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Back wall of the apse of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Lights and shapes in the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Sancti Caroli Donum in the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Ceiling of the nave of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Main altar and apse of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Apse and choir of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Marriage of the Virgin by Riccardo de Tavolini in the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Frescoed vault of the apse of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Wall with the lateral entrance of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo
Monza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Glory of Sant'Agata on the vault of the nave of the Church of Santa Maria di Carrobiolo