Art and devotion

The Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie

The Sanctuary of Ardesio was built in the place where the Blessed Virgin appeared on 23 June 1607. That day the two sisters Maria and Caterina Salera had retreated, following their mother’s instructions, to a room in their humble house to pray, to avoid a violent storm. Suddenly the room lit up with light and suddenly the Madonna with Baby Jesus appeared to them, in front of the large fresco which now serves as an altarpiece, sitting on a golden throne. Immediately the storm stopped and the sky became clear again. The devotion to the Madonna of Ardesio was born in that period, but continued and was maintained consistently over time, so much so that an expansion was already necessary in 1718: the fourth was added to the three original spans in those years.

In 1872, the Vatican Chapter decreed the golden coronation of the Venerated Effigy, which took place on 24 June of the same year with exceptional solemnity. The original crown was stolen in 1971 and replaced with the current one.

Many testimonies tell of wonders and graces received through the intercession of the Madonna of Ardesio: this has brought and still brings many pilgrims to visit the Sanctuary.

The fresco and the Room of the Saints

viviardesio santuario interno altare maggiore

In the presbytery there is the famous room of the Saints (preserved from Casa Salera, the house in which the Virgin appeared) with the large fresco of the Apparition which dominates the main altar, created by the Bottega dei Fantoni of Rovetta. With the construction of the Sanctuary, the back wall to the west and the frescoes of the Salera house were preserved. The main fresco is dated 1449 and attributed to Jacobus de Buschis (Giacomo Busca da Clusone), it represents the extreme sacrifice of Christ, on the Cross, in the center of the fresco. Next to him at the foot of the cross on one side is the heartbreaking figure of the Virgin and on the other a young Saint John the Baptist gathered in prayer. The Virgin’s face is contracted in a grimace of pain for the loss of her son. On both sides of the dramatic scene represented in the fresco there are two ranks of saints. From the left: Augustine, father of the Church, George, patron of Ardesio, John the Baptist points to Christ, Peter shows the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; Paul holding the sword symbol of his martyrdom; Saint Luke, the evangelist, has the pen in his hand and shows the scroll: “Qua hora non putatis, Filius Hominis veniet”.

At the top, above the fresco, there are three panels in relief depicting: the “Visitation”, the “Marriage” and the “Flight into Egypt”, by the sculptors Fantoni di Rovetta. In the vault stands the canvas of the Immaculate Conception among a choir of Angels, painted by Domenico Carpinoni. In the corners and intermediate rooms there are works frescoed by the painter Cesare Maironi. On the side walls there are two ovals with the “Deposition of the Cross” and the “Reposition in the tomb”, attributed to Antonio Guadagnini. At the foot of the fresco altarpiece is the High Altar: a harmony of polychrome marble, sculptures and inlays, the work of the Fantoni.

The construction of the Sanctuary and the Bell Tower

After the inhabitants of Ardesio obtained the desired license to erect a memorial church on the site of the Apparition, the municipality, in the council meeting of 13 January 1608, approved the sum of 4,300 imperial lire to pay for Marco Salera’s house and other close. These were demolished, with the exception of the “Room of the Saints”, which was kept intact to form the main chapel of the church. On 24 June 1608, the first stone was placed in a solemn procession.

Construction of the bell tower began in 1645 and was completed approximately twenty years later with the cost of twenty thousand scudi. Local marble was used, supplied by the quarry which is still called the “Cava della Madonna” today. It reaches a height of 68 meters, with an elegant architectural line that makes it one of the most admired in the diocese. The construction of the structure was entrusted to the architect Giovan Maria Bettera da Gandino. It is said that Cardinal Carrara, upon seeing the bell tower, stated in the presence of the Bishop of Bergamo Monsignor Paolo Dolfin: “I have not seen anything more solid or more elegant outside the gates of Rome”. The eight bells in classical D flat major that greet the pilgrims were cast in the Crespi foundry in Crema in 1780.

The Compianto

The so-called Fantonian Sepulcher, composed of seven large statues, was placed in the sanctuary of the Sanctuary. There are: the Dead Christ placed on the throne-bed, the Virgin of Sorrows sitting at the foot of the Cross, the Magdalene, John the Evangelist, Mary of Cleophas, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

In the abundant sacred production of the fruitful and ingenious workshop of the Fantoni di Rovetta, one of the most characteristic subjects are precisely the mourners, all created in the period of the best prosperity of the workshop: from 1690 to 1782. The latest in time is that of Ardesio, commissioned for the figure of Christ in 1711 and for the others in 1782. It was commissioned by the Confraternity of Disciplini or Gonfaloni.

The Church of San Pietro

Approaching Ardesio from the valley floor, after the Ludrigno bridge, you immediately see the beautiful little church of San Pietro. The Oratory, built on the extreme edge of an ancient river terrace, seems to have been built on a pre-existing Romanesque tribune, probably built in the 14th century with substantial renovations in the 15th. Later was the construction of the portico, which took place according to the rules dictated by San Carlo Borromeo, therefore after his pastoral visits in 1575. Today we can observe the main altar with the fresco above attributed to Alessandro de Ardese and the painting of the Baptism of Christ.

The parish Church of San Giorgio

Going up the road that leads to the center from San Pietro, you can see the 15th – 16th century parish house on the right and in front of it a fountain with a mask and decorations carved in Ardesio marble. A little further on you can admire the grandeur of the Parish Church dedicated to San Giorgio Martire, whose churchyard is adorned with two columns, belonging to the first construction of 1176. In 1455 the Bishop favored the construction of a new church which was then enlarged in the eighteenth century .

The second parish church became the center of an intense Christian life which, in addition to common religious practices, was expressed in multiple congregations called schools or confraternities. Among all, we remember that of the Disciplini and that of the Suffrage, which had the altar of the dead built in 1762 in the new parish church.

The current church with its large Nasolino tuff vaults was begun in 1737 and finished in 1747, the year of its consecration. The fifteenth century one was no longer enough, especially after the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin (1607). The project initially entrusted to Andrea Fantoni from Rovetta, was taken up and completed by Giambattista Caniana from Alzano. The local stone bell tower was built in 1487, raised and completed with a copper bulb in 1871. The interior, in Ionic style, consists of a single nave with a barrel vault supported by four imposing arches. In the center you can admire the figure of St. George and on the sides four moments of martyrdom.

In November 1978, the renovation work on the copper dome of the bell tower was commissioned.

The Shrine of S. Rocco

A small jewel, the chapel of S. Rocco preserves recently restored fifteenth-century frescoes inside. Depicted from the left: S. Rocco, S. Antonio Abate, S. Rocco, the Pietà, S. Sebastiano, S. Pietro and S. Paolo. Inside is the baptismal font of the old parish church of Ardesio.

The Church of the Disciplini

The Church of the Disciplini is located in Piazza San Giorgio, in the parish churchyard. It was the church of the Disciplini or San Bernardino brotherhood. Initially it occupied only half of the current building: the other part served as a portico. The altar, with a sculpted and carved wooden altarpiece, is a valuable work, unfortunately today very deteriorated. The seventeenth-century altarpiece depicts the Pietà with the Magdalene and St. Bernardino. The external fresco with the Crucifix, the Madonna, the Magdalene, S. Bernardino and S. Giovanni with two disciplined men, bears the date 1622.

The Municipal Palace

Walking along Via Locatelli you reach Piazza Monte Grappa, where the Municipal Palace (formerly Palazzo Garibaldi) is located, a typical 17th century slate building. Under the porticoes you can see rough outlines of fifteenth-century doors, while in the right corner of the facade a beautiful mask carved in sandstone is preserved.

The Church of S. Caterina

In the small square next to the Town Hall in the 15th century stood the church of the convent of the Dominican nuns dedicated to St. Catherine, used as a retirement home at the beginning of the 19th century (Ricovero Filisetti). During the renovation of the shelter, remains of a bell tower and two portals with frescoed lunettes were found: the central one depicts the Virgin with St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Clare and the offerers; the lateral one shows Christ with the cross. The two marble shoulders of the ancient entrance to the church show the date of construction: 1522.

The Bishop’s Palace

In the heart of Ardesio, in the main square named after Bonvicino Moretto di Ardesio, a local sixteenth-century painter, the Bishop’s Palace, a 12th-century building, dominates. On the ground floor there is the room of the Congregation of the Dead where an ancient fresco of a Danse Macabre, severely deteriorated over time, is preserved. Outside you can admire the decorated stone portal, bearing the date 1672.

The Church of Sant’Antonio al Zaffalino

The little church was built in the seventeenth century by Pietro Cacciamali, to fulfill the will of his deceased brother Don Bartolomeo. The church is enriched by nineteenth-century frescoes by Lattanzio Querena di Clusone such as the two paintings on the side walls depicting “Devotion to St. Anthony” and the saint himself, an altar boy, chasing away the Demon. The “Glory of St. Anthony” is painted on the main vault and four miracles of the Saint are painted in the tympanums. The altarpiece represents the “Madonna del Carmine with the S.S. Antonio, Luigi and Pietro Martire”. There is also a coat of arms with the name of the offering family “Bana Roncati”. The more recent bell tower dates back to the 1930s.