The church, dedicated to San Colombano abate (St. Columban, abbot), the 6th Century Irish monk founder of the Bobbio monastery, stands at the edge of the village of Parzanica and its churchyard opens out to a spectacular view.
There is no news available about the foundation of the first church. It will have depended on the parish church of Predore until at least 30 October 1512, given that sources attribute this date to the foundation of the parish church and the consecration of a first building.
The current church was built in the late 18th Century. Opened for worship in 1792, a bell tower was built in 1797 with the statue of its patron saint on the top. Consecrated on 24 October 1867, in 1923 the apse section was extended with a project designed by Luigi Angelini.
The neoclassic style façade is split into two levels: it is divided into three sections by pillar strips and huge engaged columns with an overhanging entablature culminating in a large gable. The Sarnico sandstone portal was embellished in 1973 with a terracotta design in the lunette, the work of the sculptor Gaetano del Monte from Faenza depicting the patron saint to whom the church is dedicated.
The single nave interior with four bays highlights the same neoclassical imprint on the façade with late Baroque elements: imposing columns frame the arches of the chapels and support the frieze, on which the barrel vault is set. The walls are decorated with gilded elements and plaster frames, most of which was restored in 1945 by Emilio Sessa and by the plaster artist Adolfo Gardoni, while the vault frescoes with scenes from the life of St. Columban, are the work of Giuseppe Grimani (1911-1998), also the author of the sanctuary decorations with the Four Evangelists, the Glory of St. Columban and Christ the King among saints and the faithful, whose painting style is characterised by an attractive mixture of modernity and references to 18th Century painting styles. On the inside façade, there is a large mural painting depicting the Expulsion of merchants from the temple, a work of 18th Century artists from the Bergamo area.
In the first bay on the left, the baptistery preserves the Baptism of Christ frescoed by Aldo Locatelli in 1946 inside an 18th Century plaster frame; a very similar frame is found to the right with the altarpiece of Our Lady of Sorrows, a Piety with Saints John, Francis of Assisi and Louis Gonzaga a 18th Century Bergamo style work.
In the second bay on the altar, on the left is the large 17th Century painting depicting the Annunciation signed by the artist Alessandro Bonvicini and appears to have been brought to Parzanica from Switzerland in the 20th Century. Opposite is the altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, boasting a variety of sculptures: among them the Sacred Heart by Alessandro Ghislandi (1940), St. Francis of Assisi by Angelo Righetti dated 1908 and St. Columban, dating to the first half of the 20th Century.
In the third bay, the Altar of the Rosary retains a carved 17th Century frontal featuring a floral motif in polychrome marble with a central medallion depicting Our Lady of the Rosary with Saints Dominic and Francis; it comes from the previous church and is attributed to the sculptors of the Manni workshop. The altarpiece contains the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, dating to the 17th Century and a niche with the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, the work of Giuseppe Stuflesser in 1964. Opposite this is the altar of St. Louis Gonzaga boasting an 18th Century wooden frame while the statue was the work of Giovanni Avogadri dated 1911.
The high altar, dated 1674, also originating from the ancient church, features a remarkable frontal with polychrome carvings framing the medallion of the Nativity, also attributed to the Manni workshop. In 1924 it was partly integrated and expanded with the tribune. On the back wall is the large altarpiece depicting St. Columban with Agilulf, attributed to Antonio Guadagnini, dating to the second half of the 19th Century. To the sides we can see two 18th Century Bergamo style paintings depicting, on the left Saints Fabiano, Roch and Sebastian and on the right Saints Anthony of Padua, Firmus and Anthony Abbot.
For more information:
BELLINI B., Raccolta antologica di notizie selezionate da varie edizioni, Parzanica (Bg) 1985, pp. 32-44.
BORDOGNA A., Parzanica, Sarnico (Bg) 1997, pp. 39-42, 66-67, 86-92, 168-169.