Church of San Martino in Prada

The church of San Martino was probably born as a xenodochium for pilgrims on the road that has been connecting the area of ​lower Lake Iseo and Franciacorta with Val Trompia since the past. The place where it stands, called Prada, was of particular importance for the economy of the area: it was surrounded by chestnut groves and meadows from which abundant fodder for farming was obtained. It is no coincidence that on July 25th, the feast of St. James, a large cattle fair was celebrated near the church and the annual chestnut market was held in Iseo, at least until the early twentieth Century.

Perhaps it was a Cluniac priory built on the primitive Benedictine monastic funds and dependent on the abbey Rodengo Saiano. In 1783 the church was joined to the parish of Iseo by bishop’s decree. In 1960 a private bought the area and all the buildings, and then sold them a few months later to a company that built numerous sheds for the breeding of chickens, used the church as a grain warehouse and demolished the ancient building that was leaning against the facade, probably the xenodochio.

The church, now without a façade, consists of a single nave divided into two bays and ended by a semicircular apse dating from the late 11th-early 12th Century. This is partially plastered and made up of fairly regular ashlars. It is opened by three single-lancet windows with double smooth splay, of which the central is now walled up; the projecting cornice is only partially preserved. Contemporary with the apse is the high square bell tower in stone ashlars arranged with a certain regularity. The corner pilasters are connected, on each side, by two central arches under the belfry modified in the 18th century, as the inscription “1722 G.M.B.” under the eaves attests.

Archaeological excavations in 1989 have shown that today’s church is the final outcome of a long building story, of which it is not possible to establish a sure chronology of the various phases due to the fragmentation of the remains of the oldest buildings. The church must have been of particular importance: in fact it has been restored several times, despite the structural instability caused, since its origins, by subsidence of the land or other natural phenomena.

A first church was built in the Lombard period, as suggested by the remains of two small contiguous semicircular apses and the discovery of ceramic fragments and a bone comb in a tomb of the seventh century. The building was then partially or totally destroyed and a new nave was built, superimposed on the previous one, of which the foundations of a semicircular apse and part of the southern side have been traced.

In the Romanesque period, a second nave was added to this apse and nave, ending with the current apse and bell tower. In the Middle Ages the church therefore had a square plan with two communicating naves, vaulted and ending with semicircular apses. In the center there was the rectangular pillar in Medolo stone which still exists today, decorated with a fresco from the second half of the 15th century depicting San Cristoforo. This pillar is to be related to the subsequent replacement of the vaulted roof with a wooden ceiling.

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth Centuries, the church was reduced to its current form by demolishing the ancient southern nave and adding a masonry of the remaining one, which incorporated the central pillar partially covering the San Cristoforo. The main entrance was then built, which bears an inscription on the architrave that commemorates the commission in 1626 by the abbot Marco Rossi, future archpriest of Iseo. On the external southern side there is also a rectangular window and a fresco from the second half of the 15th Century, Madonna col Bambino in trono e San Martino abate, still mindful of the forms of international Gothic.

Angelo Valsecchi


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

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