Church of San Giovanni Battista

Located in a scenographic position in the upper part of the town, the parish church of San Giovanni Battista is one of the most important religious buildings in the area, particularly because of the presence of the works of Andrea Fantoni.

In 1567 the bishop of Brescia transferred the parish title from the church of San Giorgio di Cislano to that of San Giovanni Battista, located in the center of the ancient town of Zuzano (now Zone), the most populated part of the village. In 1573 the reconstruction of the church began, it was completed in 1578, but enlarged between 1638 and 1640 due to the growth of the population. The current building was built thanks to the initiative of the parish priest Don Bartolomeo Belotti (in office from 1674 to 1724). The construction site started in 1675, it was completed in 1680, as the inscription placed in the center of the triumphal arch declares. In the following years the parish priest undertook to build the altars, which represent an important junction in the history of wood sculpture between the 17th and 18th centuries [Itinerary I]. At the same time the altar frontals were entrusted to the workshops of the Brescia marble workers (that of the altar of the Apostles is by Vincenzo Baroncino). The church could have been consecrated in 1717.

The main facade is the result of an expansion carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century. The interior looks like a large rectangular room with a barrel vault, ending with a rectangular presbytery. The decoration of the vault, completed in 1703, is due to the collaboration between stucco workers from Val d’Intelvi and the painter Domenico Voltolini, author of the painted medallions (from the facade: Ascension, Archangel Michael, St. John the Baptist in glory, Assumption of the Virgin) .

The church retains some interesting pictorial furnishings: the Last Supper by Antonio Gandino, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist by Francesco Paglia on the high altar, the Last Judgment by Pompeo Ghitti on the counter-façade. The most valuable painting is the altarpiece with the Madonna and Child with Saints John Nepomuk and Luigi Gonzaga by Francesco Monti at the altar of the Rosary, made in 1750 while the painter was busy decorating the parish church of Sale Marasino.

The first chapel on the left preserves the group of the Sepulcher (or Lamentation over the dead Christ) in carved wood and painted by Andrea Fantoni between 1689 and 1691. The group consists of ten figures, to which are added four weeping angels and, by desire of the client, is inspired by the terracotta group preserved in Santa Maria del Carmine in Brescia. Here the sculptor confirms his ability to be the interpreter of a devotion poised between baroque theatricality and eighteenth-century measure.

The chapel of the Rosary (the last on the left side) retains the beautiful frame carved in 1683 by Giovanni and Giovanni Maria Donati from Valtellina who here adopt a very lively decorative lexicon, which renews the traditional models of the Bergamo and Brescia shops. Note, in particular, the crowning with angels holding ribbons and festoons. In the corresponding chapel on the right side, the carved frame on the altar of Corpus Domini, the first work of the young Andrea Fantoni, made in 1683-1686 takes up the motif of the festoons and angels on the crowning.

Among the masterpieces of the Fantoni workshop, however, the monumental frame that dominates the presbytery should be considered, a work of collaboration between Grazioso the old and the young Andrea, started after 1685, completed in 1689. The grandiose complex supported by shelves is punctuated by colossal columns tortili (called “alla romana”) that frame the altarpiece with the Nativity of St. John the Baptist by Francesco Paglia. On the sides, the statues of the apostles Peter and Paul supported by shelves. The second register presents in the center a relief with the Preaching of St. John the Baptist, on the sides, above balustrades, groups of angels raise the statues of Saints Augustine and John Chrysostom. In its privileged relationship with space, the monumental frame marks one of the last episodes of Baroque style.


Marco Albertario

Further information:

Sina A., Il carteggio Bellotti-Fantoni per le opere d’arte di Zone e di Cerveno, in “Memorie storiche della diocesi di Brescia”, III, 1932, pp. 61-70.

Il restauro dell’altare di San Giovanni Battista nella Parrocchiale di Zone, Botticino (Bs), 1981.

Fusari G., Zone e le sue chiese. Storia e arte di una presenza religiosa, Roccafranca (Bs), 2007.

Iniziativa realizzata nell’ambito del bando Wonderfood & Wine di Regione Lombardia e Unioncamere Lombardia per la promozione di Sapore inLOMBARDIA

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