The Church of Santa Maria della Neve (Madonna of the Snows) is also known as Beata Vergine (Blessed Virgin Mary) of Gandizzano, from the name of the district along the Valeriana street, where it stands. Thanks to the devotion to the Virgin Mary, the building was transformed and embellished with valuable art works over the centuries. These upgrades, which are not always easy to identify, have for example hidden a structure, potentially dating back to the Middle Ages, incorporated into the rectory where a vaulted ceiling and embrasure were discovered; the latter being compatible with a fortified structure.
The current structure dates back to the last structural work by Engineer Giacomo Cozzoli in 1853, specifically documented by floor plans and elevations. A porch supported by Sarnico stone columns leans on the simple façade facing the lake; the Christ falling on the way to Calvary is painted in the lunette on the portal.
The interior features a single nave with lowered vaulted covering resting on arches supported on the wall pillars. This layout refers to 19th Century works, as well as the modest dry decorations of the vault. The new pilasters and ledges partially destroyed the cycle of the Passion of Christ frescoed on the inside façade and in the first right bay.
Unfortunately, damage was also caused by the execution of the main entrance and two small windows on the sides, a fact that proves that no openings were present in 1539, the year in which the frescos were painted. Thus, a different building plan must be hypothesised, and perhaps also a different orientation. The frescos of modest value were ascribed to an unknown artist: however, they are relevant in historic terms because they reproduce in smaller and less effective version, many scenes of the renowned cycle by Girolamo Romanino in the church Santa Maria della Neve (Madonna of the Snows) in Pisogne, performed 5-7 years earlier. The cycle indirectly bears witness to the appreciation received by Romanino’s frescos from the lake inhabitants. Most likely, the commissioners of Gandizzano wanted their church to resemble a smaller version of the works of the “men” of Pisogne. The scenes that most recollect Romanino’s models are the Crucifixion, the Flagellation, the Procession to Calvary. It is not known who financed this and other works, like the cycle of devotional frescos (preserved only in the first left bay) ascribed to the Maestro of St. Ippolito and Cassiano (St. Hippolytus and Cassiano) (see homonymous church in Zone) or the organ; in fact, it is difficult to explain how a secondary church without a large community was able to disburse such significant sums. It is also known however that the church was appreciated by the Martinengo family, owner of a 16th Century villa standing on the lake shore, in Conche of Sale Marasino district and some of its members were buried at the centre of the nave. The presence of the Passion cycle and some testimonies obtained from the deeds in the archives infer the presence of a religious congregation.
The wooden polyptych in the sanctuary is a valuable sculpture, perhaps the most important in the Sebino area during this period, performed by the carver Giuseppe Bulgarini and dating back prior to 1620. The polyptych is divided into three large panels by columns richly decorated with racemes and cherubs. The Virgin Mary is located at the centre, in a pose that recalls Our Lady of Mercy. In this respect, it is interesting to note that the church was named Our Lady of Mercy by Bishop Bollani (1567). St. John Baptist and St. Roch are located on the sides, while at the top we find God the father blessing. Bulgarini is renowned for his altar in Vione and the case of the enormous organ of Madonna of Tirano. It is not known why the carver moved to Sale, however his mother was somehow related with another branch of the Martinengo family (the Counts of Martinengo of Padernello).
A previous polyptych was perhaps present inside the church, of which two wooden statues of St. Peter and Paul are still preserved (16th Century), now located in the left bay.