Art

Art shakes from the soul the dust accumulated in everyday life. (Pablo Picasso)

Church of Saint George

According to a plaque on its facade, the Church of Saint George was completed in 1455, and in fact the building has the typical features of the architecture that was prevalent in Brescia and its surroundings during the 15th century. The facade has a gable roof, and there is a simple portal made of gray stone with a pointed arch; above the portal there is a semicircular opening. The right side of the church features frescoes, including a rare depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon and saving the princess. The simplicity of the church’s exterior is reflected in its interior: based on a basilica floor plan, the body of the church has wooden trusses overhead and is divided into a nave and two aisles by stone columns with Byzantine-style capitals. These Romanesque elements are what is left of the older chapel of Saint George, which stood where the current church is now located – legend has it that the chapel existed before the year 1000. Decorations are painted on the walls of the church and the two side chapels, and they feature that courtly elegance that was typical of late Gothic painting. The depiction of the saints was apparently an opportunity to portray elegant clothes and sophisticated hairstyles, reflecting the fashion of the time.

Church of Madonna del Disgiolo

Next to the ancient Via Valeriana, there stands a little church that was built in the 1700s to commemorate a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary, who intervened to stop a boulder that had fallen from the mountain – had she not done so, the rock would have crushed a farmer walking along the road with his cart.
Looking at the facade, the gable roof is an accurate reflection of the shape of the church’s interior, which centers around the memory and story of the miracle. In the apse, the rock that was stopped by the Virgin Mary forms the base of the altar, and there is a painting that depicts the apparition.

Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist and Baptistery

The parish church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist reflects the best of Brescia’s artistic production from the 17th century. Thanks to the work of Don Bartolomeo Belotti, who became rector of the church in 1674, the church was rebuilt and given magnificent altars. The altar of Corpus Domini is made up of an inlaid polychrome marble table (mensa) depicting plant motifs that form a ring around a radial monstrance. Its wooden altarpiece was carved and gilded by Grazioso and Andrea Fantoni. The altar of Madonna del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) features a frame created by two wood-carvers from the town of Bormio, Giovanni and Giovanni Maria Donati, while the marble mensa is decorated with geometric motifs and adorned by the statues of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine. However, the Fantoni family’s art is truly on full display in the altarpiece that adorns the high altar, with hovering angels, saints in dynamic and at times unusual poses, and panels in mezzo-relievo depicting sacred history. Andrea Fantoni was also responsible for the group of sculptures depicting the Lamentation of Christ, which features 10 full-figure statues and 4 putti. It is an emotionally-intense sacred depiction that captures the pain and drama of the moment in the emphatic gestures and agonized facial expressions of the statues. The goal is to cause the believer to be physically and emotionally involved in sacred history. In addition, one should not underestimate the value of the paintings present in the church: the painting over the high altar is the exquisite work of Francesco Paglia, while Voltolini was responsible for the frescoes on the walls of the vaults.
Next to the church there is an octagonal chapel featuring frescoes by Domenico Voltolini on its exterior walls. Today it is dedicated to the worship of Mary, but it was built in the early 1700s as a small church for the cemetery.

Church of SS. Hippolytus and Cassian

The origins of the Church of SS. Hippolytus and Cassian lie somewhere between history and legend. It would seem that the church was built on the site where the market was located in the early Middle Ages; at the same time, the fact that it is dedicated to Saint Cassian, a teacher whose martyrdom came at the hands of his own students, would seem to recall the existence of a school that was run by Brescia’s cathedral chapter. There is no doubt, however, that the current building was erected in the 15th century: its architectural features reveal as much, as they are so similar to those of the Church of Saint George and typical of Lombard Gothic. To find traces of this site’s educational tradition, visitors must take a moment to behold the multicolored frescoes that adorn the walls of the chancel and apse. Though they show the signs of inexpert restoration work carried out in the 1800s, the paintings depict the life of Jesus with a lively narrative immediacy – a strong testament to one of the fundamental functions of frescoes, namely to recount and pass down sacred history to those who could not read it in books.

Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot

It seems that the Church of Saint Anthony traces its origins to the miracle-working of the saint himself, who was invoked especially by those suffering from herpes zoster (shingles), and who in general offered protection against all contagious diseases. Thus, this religious building was likely erected near a lazaretto, or to ward off some sort of epidemic towards the end of the 16th century. Its simple architectural structure is enhanced by the unusual fact that the height of its facade is greater than that of its nave; in addition, it features a beautiful portal in gray stone with an architrave. The inside of the church is simple and intimate, and between the 1600s and 1700s it was adorned with valuable works of art: the high altar is dominated by the majestic figure of Saint Anthony in a painting by Ottavio Amigoni, who was in Zone in the mid-1600s to create the altarpiece in the Church of Saint George as well; the chancel features a stunning balustrade in decorated gray stone with reliefs; and the frescoes on the vaults were painted by Domenico Voltolini.