Oratory of San Giorgio (St. George) or of the Crocifisso (Cross)


San Giorgio (St. George) of Solto Collina, facing the churchyard of the parish church, stands today as the result of a series of transformations, the last one dating back to the 18th Century phase. Some external portions of the wall on the west façade bear witness to its first foundation in the 14th Century. The apse of the 15th Century church was facing east; this portion was demolished during the early 18th Century to extend the nave, inverting the building orientation; the new entrance to the east and the high altar facing west were built at this time.

The façade, preceded by a short set of steps, is divided into two sections by a ledge of an average level: two large windows are located in the lower section, beside the entrance portal (in Sarnico stone). The oratory of the Penitents, consisting of a masonry partition wall with wooden intermediate floor located in the inside façade, where the friars could look onto the nave, was spared from the demolition of the 15th Century building; today this complex, smaller in size and different in structure, is used as a sacristy. Wall frescos are preserved, which depict hooded friars and saints, and also the cycle with the Stories of Jesus. These are 15th Century frescos which relate, in iconographic and stylistic terms, to the cycle in the oratory of Clusone and indeed, the signature of Giacomo Busca – author of decorative work in Clusone  – is found in the inscription of the Crucifixion that, even if fragmented, shows Magdalene, patron saint of the congregation, kneeling down with a friar in prayer on the opposite side. There are also geometric-perspective and floral adornments featuring macabre subjects such as skulls, bones and scrolls with inscriptions on life transience.

The new oratory of the 18th Century was named “the Crucifix” as the sculpture realised by Andrea Fantoni dated 1717 was placed as altarpiece. Christ on the cross is a splendid work of art: the body is characterised by a detailed muscle structure and the sinuous lines are exalted also by the large striped loin cloth with gold trimming. The woman on the right, who represents the Virgin or the Catholic Church, pours blood from the chalice onto the scale plate held by Justice (on the left) to counter-balance the Purgatory’s flames on the other plate. An angel collects Christ’s blood in the chalice to emphasise that the sacrifice of the Cross is the way to achieve redemption.  The catechetical purpose of the group of artists led by Fantoni is in line with the 18th Century spirituality of religious congregations and more in general, with the preaching on indulgences for souls in the Purgatory, represented in the small section under the cross base.  In some notary deeds of the early 18th Century, the church is also referred to as “Oratorio de Defonti” and of “Morti” (the Dead). The large niche containing the Crucifix with the Virgin and Justice was later closed by a glass door; most likely, Giuseppe A. Foresti donated 300 liras in his will of 1721 for said addition, with the intention “to cover the statues of that altar with Venice crystals”.

The work is set in a beautiful marble frame that reaches the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary.  The altar, by the Selva workshop in Riva di Solto, features an elegant frontal with polychrome marble on a black background: a cherub head and white marble medallion featuring the Adoration of the Shepherds, not consistent with the building’s iconographic layout, are found at the centre. The marble reliquary on the wall preserves a fragment of Christ’s flagellation column. A banner is hung in the nave, which depicts the altar’s plastic group; it was most likely used during the congregation’s processions along the village streets.

 

Federico Troletti

 

 

For more information:

Le discipline del Sebino: tra medioevo ed età moderna, Brescia 2001, pp. 170-178, 213, 216-218.

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

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