Religious Places

Church of Santa Maria della Passione

The history of the Church of Santa Maria della Passione is complex, and its structure has undergone many changes over the centuries. The church, which was built by the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine, called Laterans, includes both late Renaissance and Baroque elements. Its construction began at the end of the 15th century and lasted three centuries. The most ancient part of the Church of Santa Maria della Passione is the rear one, which includes an octagonal lantern to which eight chapels, alternatively semicircular or rectangular, were connected. The primitive system was perhaps designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, but it was Giovanni Battagio who realized it. It was therefore centralized, as in many Marian shrines of Renaissance Lombardy. The dome, divided into eight segments and with pictorial decorations by Panfilo Nuvolone, however, was completed by Cristoforo Lombardo, called il Lombardino. It should be noted that the structure is made more grandiose by the fact that the dome does not rest directly on the trabeation, but on a drum in which windows open, interspersed with semi-columns placed at the vertexes of the octagon. Along the entire base of the dome there is a cornice that summarizes Isaiah’s prophecy about the Passion and contains quotations from the Old Testament. Note also, between the entablature and the arches of the octagon, monochromatic frescoes of sibyls and prophets (remember that in the Renaissance the sibyls were placed next to the prophets to suggest a parallelism, in the expectation of Christ, between the pagan world and the Jewish world). The tiburium, the structure that overlaps externally to the dome, is characterized by classicist lines, as sober and classical as they are imposing and severe.As for the façade of the Church of Santa Maria della Passione, the project is also by Martino Bassi but it was realized by his pupil Dionigi Campazzo. Originally, there was a statue of an angel on all six pillars, not only on the two outer ones. The Church of Santa Maria della Passione is important not only from an historical and architectural point of view, but also because it hosts many valuable works of art of various artists, mostly dedicated to the theme of the Passion of Christ. Worthy of note, among the many works, are the four large altarpieces in the transept, Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Last Supper (in the center in the lower part of Photo 8) and Bernardino Campi’s Crucifixion in the left transept, and The Deposition in the right transept. Curiously enough, of the Last Supper by Ferrari there is an almost copy inside the Old Basilica of the Sanctuary of Oropa near Biella. The characters are almost identical, while the background is totally different. The paintings on the doors of the two organs are also very beautiful, with works by Daniele Crespi and Carlo Urbino. The half-figures of the Lateran saints on the pillars of the nave were originally in the refectory of the convent and were moved to the church when it was suppressed in 1782. Very beautiful works by Carlo Urbino are finally present in the Cappella Taverna, coinciding in fact, in the present church, with the right branch of the transept and characterized by a wonderfully decorated ceiling.

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