Church of San Zenone


The parish church in Sale Marasino, dedicated to the fishermen’s patron saint, represents one of the most prominent 18th Century examples in Sebino area, thanks to the magnificence of the structure and the opulence of the adornments.

Built upon design (1737) by an architect from Bergamo Giovan Battista Caniana between 1738 and 1754, the current building replaces a more ancient, smaller structure, as proven by the archaeological surveys carried out in 2000.

There are three accesses: the one on the left side featuring a pronaos. The façade was built to the design of architect from Brescia Carlo Melchiotti (1893); it is interspersed by pillar strips with Corinthian capitals, and embellished by a curvilinear gable. The upper band features a large window with adjacent niches housing the statues of St. Zeno and James, and two semi-circular windows in the lower part.

The interior that resembles the structure of the Domo Nuovo (New Dome) of Brescia, features a central, Greek cross plan but it is divided in three bays surmounted by a dome, whose high summit can also be seen from the exterior. The sanctuary, protruding from the central body, is also topped by a small dome that is lower in height and built in an elliptical shape.

The wall adornments, executed in two, almost subsequent phases, are exceptionally opulent. Mural painter from Monza Giacomo Lechi (or Lecchi) was involved in the first phase and depicted the Evangelists on the main dome and squinches (in an unusual blue colour and perhaps partially re-painted) while the frescos inside elaborate mixtilinear frames in white and gold plaster depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (apsidal conch), St. Zenone in glory (elliptical small dome) and Prophets (squinches) dating back to about 1746, characterised by striking colours and childlike, almost mawkish shapes, are ascribable to Giovan Francesco Gaggini, a painter from Ticino that began working in Brescia and surroundings from the fourth decade of the 18th Century. The low appreciation for the work by the head of the workshop led to the re-assignment of the remaining adornments to two artists from Bologna, perspective painter Giovanni Bernardo Zanardi and Francesco Monti, in charge of the figurative aspects, who had recently worked in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace (Our Lady of Peace), in Brescia. The two painters began decorating the large arches with Stories of the Virgin in 1748, completing their work on the walls of the apse (faux architectures, Journey of Maria and Joseph to Bethlehem; Adoration of the Shepherds, dated around 1750) and towards the entrance (faux architectures, allegoric figures, 1752-1754 ca.), creating graceful perspectives and long and elegant figures. The chapels of Battista (John the Baptist) and San Carlo (St. Charles) were frescoed by an artist from Como Filippo Velizzi, who also worked in Lovere.

The marble altars of Sant’Antonio da Padova (St. Anthony of Padua), St. Charles (17th Century) and the Immacolata (Virgin Mary) (18th Century, probably commissioned by Ogna’s workshop in Rezzato) are particularly valuable.

Many paintings recovered from the old parish church are ascribed to Pompeo Ghitti: the marvellous altarpiece depicting the Virgin and Child in glory and St. Zeno, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Anthony the Abbot, St. James the Elder, St. Roch, the altarpiece of St. Anthony, perhaps a bit older (1679 ca.), three paintings representing Jesuitical themes and another four, still preserved in the sacristy, in addition to the Guardian Angel above the entrance. The sacristy also preserves a painting by Giovan Mauro Della Rovere depicting the Arrival of St. Charles Borromeo in Sale Marasino.

Some 18th Century paintings are however less valuable: The Baptism of Christ by Giuseppe Fali, a follower of Monti, and the two altarpieces of the Virgin Mary and St. Charles Borromeo (1754 ca.), currently ascribed to the artist Bernardino Bono from Brescia, follower of Marcantonio Franceschini from Bologna, also author of small ovals depicting the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary in the Cross chapel and Mysteries in the Rosary altar. The following frame one of the most beautiful 17th Century altarpieces in Lombardy: The Virgin of the Rosary and St. Domenic, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Paola, St. Catherine of Alexandria by Giovan Battista Sassi from Milan (after 1748), entirely characterised by pastel hues and soft shapes that the artist learned from Francesco Solimena from Naples, most likely his teacher.

The wood adornments are also opulent: in the main chapel, the elaborate wood frame by Boscaì, carvers from Valsabbia, features two wood statues of St. Zeno and St. James the Older, work by Grazioso Fantoni (1753), to whom are also ascribed the two statues of the Afflicted alongside the Cross in the chapel dedicated to him. The walnut wood choir stall dating back to the 17th Century, comes from the earlier parish church. The organ, built by the Bolognini in 1754, was re-constructed in 1911.

Fiorella Frisoni



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

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