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Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico

Foto Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Foto Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Foto Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Foto Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Foto Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Church of the Saints Fermo and RusticoThe parish church of Saints Fermo and Rustico represents the most important religious building inside the village of Caravaggio, i.e. not considering the Sanctuary of St. Mary of the Spring which is actually located outside the town.

The oldest documents in which the church is mentioned date back to 1196 and 1218; it is certain, however, that its origins are earlier, and that probably a first sacred building was erected at the same time as the birth of the town itself, it means even before the year 1000.

Conceived in Romanesque style, the church is now characterized outside by a typically Lombard-Gothic aspect due to the transformations it underwent after the first building; an example of a modification that took place in a subsequent period is given by the portal, in which Saint Bernardine with a halo is shown, and which therefore was constructed after 1450 (the year of his canonization).

The side aisles and the central elevation were added in 1429, altering the original hut shape. At the same time the side chapels were built, which, despite numerous subsequent modifications, still present (in particular the third on the left) numerous elements of the medieval era. Until the beginning of the twentieth century the chapels also housed long tombstones in the name of illustrious local families.

In 1500, one year after the beginning of the decade of Venetian domination over Caravaggio, the construction of the current bell tower began. The work always progressed slowly, so much so that in 1710 the parapet had been reached, while the final completion had to wait until 1932, when the aedicule was finally added to the top under the direction of Carlo Bedolini.

The interior of the building, initially very austere, was then heavily transformed into a late baroque/neoclassical style between 1777 and 1798 under the direction of the Piedmontese scenographer Fabrizio Galliari, who was also responsible for the restructuring of the presbytery and choir.
An important restoration took place in 1932; in 1990 a new cleaning of the facade was carried out.

The church as a whole is characterized by its considerable size. The facade contributes to making it appear even larger, as it is much higher than the actual body of the church.
It is entirely in exposed brick. On the side it is delimited by two square pillars, while two other internal pillars, semicircular in the lower part and square in the upper part, divide it vertically into three areas. The vertical development of the fa├žade is underlined by five octagonal spiers: four in correspondence with the four pillars and one, above a square base, in the center. The imposing facade is softened by hanging arches, blind galleries and windows and thin pilaster strips. There are three entrances: the main one, located in the center, and two lateral ones. All have a stone portal, the central one from the Romanesque period, the lateral ones from a later period. The central one is made up of several frames inserted one inside the other and is decorated with bas-reliefs of various saints and prophets in rounds, and with the figures, also in relief, of Saint Francis and Saint Bernardine. In the lunette there is furthermore a fresco by Giovanni Moriggia depicting the Virgin with Child and the saints Fermo and Rustico. Above the entrances there are three round windows: a proper rose window, right in the center of the facade, above the main door, and two oculi above the lateral doors.
At the top in the center, three niches house the statues of the Virgin and of the saints Fermo and Rustico. Three other statues with the same subject, but smaller, are found at the base of the central spire.
Bell tower
Even more impressive than the facade is the square-based bell tower, whose height reaches 71 meters. It too is completely in exposed brick and includes four floors with faces marked vertically by pilasters, plus a solid base. The three upper floors are decorated with rhomboid motifs and blind monofores. The top floor serves as a bell cell. Above it runs a stone balustrade. In the center of the area it delimits there is an octagonal aedicule with a small dome.
The church has three naves, with the central one about three times wider than the lateral ones. All three are divided into five spans, each one corresponding to a side chapel on each side. An exception is the last span of the right aisle, which corresponds to what could be considered the right arm of a transept and which overlooks two chapels.
The naves are separated by arches supported by cruciform pillars. All the vaults are cross vaults, with those of the central nave equipped with lunettes within which there are mixtilinear windows. Each time a decoration with the same structure is presented: gilded stuccos around the windows, on the lower face of the arches and on the ribs, in the center a mixtilinear frame containing a fresco painted by Federico and Carlo Ferrerio at the end of the eighteenth century and depicting a biblical scene. All on a homogeneous blue-green background.
Starting from the entrance, we have:

Left aisle:
- Hagar and Ishmael in the desert
- Elijah and the Angel
- The rod of Aaron
- Moses at the burning bush
- Jacob's meeting with Esau
Central nave:
- Preparation of the tabernacle
- David pours water in libation to God
- Moses descends from Sinai with the tables
- Abraham and the three angels
- Melchizedek offers the loaves
Right aisle:
- The ravens bring bread to Elijah
- Daniel and the idol Bel
- David and Abigail
- Davide buys Ornan's threshing floor
- Immolation of Isaac

Most have the same structure: rectangular plan, barrel vault and marble balustrade to delimit it with respect to the nave and semicircular window in the upper part of the back wall. Unless otherwise indicated, the structure of the chapel is this.
Always starting from the entrance you have:

On the left:
Baptistery: In fact it is a normal chapel, with the baptismal font in the center. It is dominated by a majestic baroque altarpiece with an architectural structure in painted and gilded wood. At the center of it, between two pairs of columns accompanied by two angels, an altarpiece depicting the baptism of Christ painted in 1571 by Coriolano Malagavazzo from the workshop of Bernardino Campi.
Chapel of St. Joseph: The altarpiece consists of an Adoration of the Magi from 1529 by Nicola Moietta. On the sides of the altar two paintings depicting St. Christopher and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In fact, all three of these paintings, and also the lunette above the altarpiece, originally constituted a single polyptych. On the walls two later paintings depicting the Marriage of the Virgin and the Death of St. Joseph. On the vault, finally, the Dream of St. Joseph, an Angel, the Flight into Egypt.
Chapel of Saints Peter and Andrew (Fig. 4): Inside an elegant altarpiece in polychrome marble there is a Virgin with Child between Saints Peter and Andrew painted in 1504 and signed by Cristoforo Ferrari de 'Giuchis. It is the oldest painting in the church. On the side walls and on the vault there are seventeenth-century frescoes depicting biblical scenes.
Chapel of the Deposition: In this case the balustrade is partly in marble, partly in wrought iron. It houses an altarpiece with a Deposition of Christ by Francesco Prata, a pupil of Romanino (first half of the 16th century).
Chapel of St. Ambrose: It is located at the head of the aisle. It is narrower than the lateral ones and the vault is a dome with lunettes. The retable in polychrome marble houses a Virgin with Child and Saints Ambrose and Charles as an altarpiece. It is also called the Chapel of the Relics because in 1934 niches for the relics were made in the side walls, protected by wrought iron gates.

On the right:
Chapel of Saints Rocco and Sebastian: The altar has a beautiful frontal in inlaid wood. Also in wood is the rich late sixteenth-century altarpiece with an architectural structure in which two pairs of fluted columns with Corinthian capitals support a sumptuous double broken pediment at the top of which is a statue of the Virgin. Between the two pairs of columns is the seventeenth-century altarpiece depicting the Vergin and Child with Saints Francis, Rocco and Sebastian and attributed to the local painter Fermo Ghisoni.
On the sides of the altar there are two seventeenth-century paintings depicting Saint Stephen and Saint Lawrence attributed to the Caravaggio painter Giovanni Battista Secco, known as Caravaggino.
The side walls and the vault of the chapel furthermore host five stories from the life of San Rocco.
Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua: The altarpiece, placed above two steps with marble inlays, houses a niche containing a statue of the saint between two columns with corinthian capital. The original decorative stuccos that adorned the vault were removed in 1923, when the painter Mario Albertella frescoed Ezzelino da Romano in front of Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony blesses with the monstrance, Glory of Saint Anthony. On the side walls two late seventeenth-century canvases: Miracle of the foot reattached and Saint Anthony resurrects a dead person.
Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary: Originally dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, it was dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary only around 1650. The wooden statue of the Virgin in the central niche is of 1937 by the sculptor Moroder. All the paintings present are attributed to Andrea Asper, whose signature is however present only on the two paintings of 1655 on the sides of the altar and depicting Penitent St. Jerome and St. Dominic and the Virgin.
Chapel of St. Bernardine, or of the Suffrage: It has an altar with a beautiful frontal in scagliola. The retable is basically made up of a large richly decorated frame inside which there is a canvas from the first half of the eighteenth century by Francesco Bradella depicting St. Bernardine and St. Mary of the Suffrage. On the sides there are two seventeenth-century paintings, depicting St. Peter Martyr and Saint Catherine of Siena. On the side walls two canvases from the same period, depicting Saint Teresa of Avila and St. Mauro.
Chapel of the Apparition: It is located at the end of the lateral transept. It is wider than the others, with a square plan and illuminated by two windows placed on both sides. It is actually dedicated to the Virgin of Caravaggio, and was built only in 1841. The altarpiece of the white retable of eclectic taste depicts The Apparition of the Virgin to Giannetta, by Giovanni Moriggia, dating back to 1844. The hemispherical dome is decorated with stucco grotesques. Four angels carrying invocations of the "Salve Regina" are depicted on the pendentives.
Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament: It was probably built at the beginning of the sixteenth century and represents a small jewel of the Renaissance. The chapel does not communicate with the nave, but with the right transept. It has an irregular octagonal plant. Completely in exposed brick, externally it is structured on two orders divided by an entablature. In the upper order, long sides with a real oculus and two blind oculi and surmounted by a triangular tympanum alternate with short sides occupied by a large empty niche and surmounted by an arch. A circular drum is inserted above the second order. At the center of the roof, finally, a circular lantern.
Inside one of the long sides is occupied by the entrance, the opposite one by a small apse and the other two are frescoed walls. The short sides are occupied by niches containing statues of the doctors of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome and St. Gregory, made between 1532 and 1577 by Orazio Samacchini.
The interior of the dome is decorated with a Glory of angels painted in the first half of the sixteenth century by Nicola Moietta. By Francesco Prata and a little later are the twelve apostles who, immediately below, look out from a trompe l'oeil parapet. Immediately below there is a circular loggia that runs along the entire perimeter of the chapel. In 1571 Bernardino Campi painted with the help of Coriolano Malagavazzo and Vincenzo Moietta, son of Nicola, the frescoes of the four Evangelists of the pendentives, the Washing of the feet on the left wall (larger picture), Jesus brought to the tomb in the lunette above it, the Last Supper on the right wall, the Annunciation in the corresponding lunette and Jesus and the Samaritan woman in the lunette above the entrance. The altarpiece depicts Risen Christ embracing the cross by an uncertain author. The wooden statues on the sides of the altar are from the nineteenth century, while the three frescoes in the apsidal basin are by Giulio Cesare Procaccini and depict the Transfiguration, the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Miracle of the Manna.
It is worth noting in front of the entrance to the chapel, walled into the wall of the transept, the Sarcophagus of Fermo Secco, which died in 1401. It is in fact only a part of the sarcophagus, which originally rested on four columns. The bas-relief depicts the Virgin and Child and St. Anthony the Abbot and Saint Mark entrusting her the deceased and his family.
Chapel of St. Nicholas or of the Crucifix: chapel on the head of the right chapel. The altarpiece depicts Jesus and Santa Maria Margherita Aloque and was painted by Mario Albertella in 1923. In front of it a rich eighteenth-century golden crucifix.
Presbytery and choir
It has a complex structure, perhaps also due to the enlargement at the end of the eighteenth century. Above the presbytery stands an ellipsoidal dome within a rectangular block with various windows. Four walls of its drum are absent, so as to let the light from the windows come in. In the corners behind these empty walls there are four statues depicting the evangelists.
On the sides of the presbytery there are two large balconies, the right of which is occupied by an organ from 1841 placed in an elegant late eighteenth-century neoclassical style wooden chest.
The choir is very deep and includes a rectangular part, on the vault of which is frescoed, in an ellipsoidal frame, the scene of the Book of Seven Seals taken from the Apocalypse, and a polygonal apse. The lower part of the walls is occupied by a solid wood choir in two lines.
On the walls there are three paintings: on the left wall Miracle of the saints Fermo and Rustico by an uncertain author, on the right wall Martyrdom of the saints Fermo and Rustico (1827) by Giovanni Moriggia and on the back wall Virgin and Child with the saints Fermo and Rustico (1615) by Giulio Cesare Procaccini.
The sacristy houses valuable solid wood furniture, as well as valuable canvases.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Piazza Santi Fermo e Rustico, 6, 24043 Caravaggio BG
Further pictures of Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico in the section Photography
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Ceiling of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Detail of the frescoes inside the dome of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Interior of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Presbytery of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Left internal wall of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Fresco of the Washing of the Feet in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Vault of the choir of the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary in the the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Interior of the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Chapel of the Saints Rocco and Sebastian in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Counterfacade of  the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Chapel of the Saints Peter and Andrew in the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico
Caravaggio (Bergamo, Italy): Naves of the Church of the Saints Fermo and Rustico