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Busto Arsizio (Varese, Italy): St. Michael the Archangel Church

Foto St. Michael the Archangel Church
Foto St. Michael the Archangel Church
Foto St. Michael the Archangel Church
Foto St. Michael the Archangel Church
Foto St. Michael the Archangel Church
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): St. Michael the Archangel ChurchThe Church of San Michele Arcangelo (St. Michael the Archangel Church) is the third most important church in Busto Arsizio, after the Sanctuary of Saint Mary at the Square, a Renaissance jewel, and the Basilica of St. John Baptist, from the Baroque period. Its origins are very ancient, yet important changes and additions were still made in the mid-twentieth century.

The site was already occupied by the chapel of the castle built by the Lombards in the early Middle Ages and destroyed in the thirteenth century. The basal part of the bell tower, considered to date back to the ninth or tenth century, would correspond to this primitive chapel.
At the end of the thirteenth or at the beginning of the fourteenth century the original chapel was replaced by a Romanesque church with a basilica plan. The bell tower corresponds to this first version of the church. Between 1652 and 1679 the second version of the church was built (except the facade), based on a project by the architect Fancesco Maria Richino (or Ricchino, Ricchini or even Righini), oriented in the opposite direction to the previous one. The façade was completed only in 1795, without changes with respect to the Richino project.
In 1884 the baptistery was added. In 1931 the vault was redone. Between 1937 and 1939, based on a project by the architect Giovanni Maggi, the presbytery and the apse were demolished and rebuilt, adding also the transept, the dome, the sacristy, the winter chapel and, on the rear facade, a reproduction of the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with painted concrete stalactites. The rear façade aroused much criticism because it is not in style with the older parts and does not even live up to the functionalist rationalist style then in vogue.
Finally, between 1932 and 1950, the pictorial decoration of the interior was carried out by Mario and Ettore Chiodo Grandi, Angelo Galloni, Gerolamo Polloni and Angelo Bonfanti.

The church has a Latin cross plan, with a deep choir and a strongly projecting transept.
The facade has two orders separated by a thick cornice and marked by Ionic pilasters in the lower order and composite ones in the upper one. There are four niches containing the statues of saints Jerome, Augustine, Gregory and Ambrose. The lower order has a large portal in the center, placed between two marble semi-columns and surmounted by a round bas-relief depicting the Virgin with Child. At the center of the upper order there is instead a large rectangular window. The façade is crowned by a large triangular tympanum containing in the center the dedication to St. Micheal surmounted by four statues of angels (on the sides) and of St. Michael Archangel (in the center).

On the left side of the church there is the mortorium, built between 1761 and 1764 to a design by Biagio Bellotti in Teresian baroque style, an original arched construction that connects the church with the parish house allowing at the same time the crossing towards the back of the church where there was originally a cemetery. The structure has a double curved pediment on both sides. The central part is surmounted by a semi-ellipsoidal dome on spherical pendentives on which an allegorical representation of charity is placed. On the sides of the passage there are two square rooms covered with a barrel vault intended for the display of the bones. The windows are ellipsoidal and equipped with extremely artistic wrought iron railings. Of the paintings that covered all the walls, only the Divine Justice in the central dome and four allegorical figures on the pendentives remain.

The bell tower represents the oldest building in Busto Arsizio. The basal part, in stone and pebbles, is traced back to the ninth or tenth century. The middle part presents the decoration with rectangular frames with hanging arches under the upper side typical of the Lombard Romanesque. The windows consist of single and mullioned windows.
The bell tower was first raised by the segment corresponding to the clock and subsequently (in 1559) by the bell cell.

The interior has a single room with a barrel vault with lunettes and with five chapels on each side plus the two arms of the transept. The presbytery coincides with the intersection between the nave and the transept and is surmounted by a large dome. Only the central apse is present, but it is very high and deep.

The counter-façade (Fig. 2) is richly decorated with trompe l'oeila frescoes simulating a real internal facade in Baroque style, equipped with pilasters and niches with statues depicting characters from the Old Testament inside: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Moses, Aaron. The stained glass window above the main entrance depicts the Virgin with Child and St. John the Baptist child.
The vault includes in the center a large mixtilinear frame with the archangel Michael defeating the rebel angels inside and two smaller frames with in one God the creator and in the other the Annunciation. Among the lunettes are instead depicted Micah, Obadiah, Joel, Hosea, Malachi, Zacharias, Haggai, Abacuc. To accompany the whole grotesque and cherubs.
In the right arm of the transept there are: On the walls Elijah comforted by the angel, the Miracle of Turin, Last supper; on the vault Glory of San Felice. In the left arm (Fig. 3): On the walls Miracle of St. Tarcisius, Miracle of St. Anthony, Multiplication of the loaves and the fish; on the vault Assumption.
In the dome Christ the victor over death is depicted, on the pendentives the Four Evangelists, in the apse Primacy of Peter, Holy Spirit, Faith, Charity, Hope, Justice, St. Cecilia and St. Gregory.
The baptistery is decorated with Baptism of Jesus on the walls, Mandate of Jesus to the Apostles and in the vault Holy Spirit among angels.
The lower part of the apse walls is occupied by the choir stalls in carved wood. Above it, in the center, the current organ, from 1945, of over three thousand pipes.
The church has interally five arches on each side. However, only three on each side correspond to actual side chapels:

On the left side there are:
Chapel of St. Joseph: Baroque style, rebuilt in 1903, with the wooden group of the saint's death, by Hans Saffer, round with the glory of Saints Cosma and Damian (to whom the chapel was originally dedicated ) of the 15th-16th century, St. Joseph and David on the walls (Angelo Galloni, 1942-43);
Chapel of the Sacred Heart: In neoclassical style, rebuilt in 1882, with a wooden statue of the Mayer company in Munich, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Thomas Aquinas on the walls (Angelo Galloni 1942-43);
Chapel of the Virgin: Built in the years 1860-68 on a project by Giovanni Savoja in a neo-Renaissance style. In the niche on the back wall there is a statue of the Immaculate Conception from around 1930, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim on the walls (Angelo Galloni 1942-43).

On the right side:
Chapel of the Crucifix (Fig. 5): Built in 1773 in Baroque style. It has a large retable with an architectural structure comprising two twisted columns enriched with vine shoots that support a large compound pediment on which numerous cherubs rest. Between the two columns there is a large niche with a painted wooden crucifix from the Renaissance period inside. A second, smaller niche is present in the center of the pediment. It contains the relic of the Cross by Biagio Bellotti. At the base of the retable there is a Pietà, attributed to Ambrogio da Fossano known as Bergognone (late fifteenth century). On the walls: Veronica and St. Mary Magdalene by Angelo Galloni 1942-43;
Chapel of St. Felix: In neo-Renaissance style (arch. Giovanni Savoja, 1864), with urn of the saint's remains, reliquaries from the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s, canvas with St. Charles in adoration of the holy Nail, attributed to Giovan Mauro della Rovere known as Fiammenghino (17th century), St. Peter in the catacombs and in the arena (Mario Chiodo Grandi, 1939);
Chapel of Saint Francis from Paola: Altar of 1739-41 in polychrome marble, canvas of the apparition of the archangel Michael to the saint (the coat of arms of the Marliani counts, then feudal lords of Busto Arsizio, is depicted) , miracle of the saint (upper oval), St. John the Baptist and St. Augustine on the walls (Angelo Galloni 1942-43).
Furthermore there is the Winter Chapel, created in 1991. It contains: Wooden crucifix from the mid-fourteenth century, among the oldest in the entire area together with that of Sacconago and Borsano, altarpiece of the Annunciation (Claudio Feria, 1662), Last Supper (copy from Bernardino Luini by Giuseppe Bossi, 1808-10), statue of the Immaculate Conception by Mauro Merelli (1977), Via Crucis by Carlo Farioli (1977).
In the sacristy there is a large wardrobe engraved with the date of 1707, sculptures, fragments of frescoes, processional banners.

The adjacent parish house (temporarily) houses the Museum of Sacred Art. In it are kept numerous works of art of great value, ancient and modern and of all kinds: paintings, sculptures, engravings, sacred books and more.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Piazzetta don pio chieppi, 1a, 21052 Busto Arsizio VA
Further pictures of St. Michael the Archangel Church in the section Photography
Busto Arsizio (Varese, Italy): Vault of the passage through the mortorium of the St. Michael the Archangel Church
Busto Arsizio (Varese, Italy): Counterfacade of the St. Michael the Archangel Church
Busto Arsizio (Varese, Italy): Ceiling of the nave of the St. Michael the Archangel Church