Church of San Giovanni Battista in Conche

The church of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) is located on the hillside in the area of Conche, between the Valle di Vigolo (Vigolo valley) to the north and the village of Marasino to the south. Conche consists of a series of buildings arranged on a network of main roads. Medieval structures stand out among the dwellings, among which tower-houses adapted in following periods into residential and agricultural courtyard houses. According to a survey of 1574, the small village featured a port: most likely the actual docks were between Martinengo palace and the church of San Pietro e Paolo dei Disciplini (St. Peter and Paul of the Penitents), in Curetto district [102].
Battista Isonni’s will dated 1706 already mentions the construction of the church in Conche; however, the inhabitants of the village only obtained the authorisation from parish priest Ghitti to erect the church in 1737. The design of the building was filed at the Bishop’s Court in Brescia; most likely the designer was Giovanni Battista Galli, architect from Como, who also designed the church in Tavernola Bergamasca. The building consists of a central plan with quadrangular sanctuary; the corners are bevelled therefore the design takes the shape of an irregular octagon. A similar layout can also be found in the churches of San Giacomo (St. James) in Maspiano [98] and San Giovanni (St. John) in Carzano of Monte Isola [56]. It has been highlighted, however, that our oratory was influenced by architect Giovan Battista Caniana, who was working in the construction of the parish church of Sale [99] during those years.
The baroque façade is divided in two orders by a overhanging frieze; a series of pillar strips lying on plinths characterise the entire façade: the lower order features Doric capitals, while in the upper order, the capitals are in Ionic style. The top of the façade with the curvilinear gable is also worthy of mention. The portal is in white marble while the large window in the upper order is finished in plaster. The eight niches, four of which located at the rounded corners, were meant to house as many statues which apparently, have never been made. The entrance threshold is slightly raised compared to the road surface and can be accessed from a short marble set of steps; the building was preceded by a sort of churchyard-square that was demolished when the coastal road was paved. The small bell tower and the tholobate of the dome are only slightly visible given they are partially hidden by the scenographic façade.
The interior is airy despite a short nave topped by a dome with circular base; the sanctuary features an oval dome. The sequence of round, curvilinear and bevelled architectural elements characterises the general style of the building: thanks to the attractive combination between sinuous architectural lines, plasterwork and pictorial adornments, this is a beautiful example of a late baroque style church. The portals inserted in the dome’s pillars prior to the sanctuary and the beautiful pulpit above one of them, are also in line with the architecture. Around 1750, Francesco Monti from Bologna, already working on the adornments of the parish church of Sale [99], frescoed the four squinches of the dome in Conche, with Martyr Saints Apollonia, Agatha, Catherine of Alexandria, and Lucy. The works, touched up and partially integrated by restoration interventions, are in tune with the graphic and pictorial works of Monti. The same author also painted the beautiful painting of the altarpiece, the Madonna and Child and St. John the Baptist and St. Erasmus, stolen in 1974 and now re-proposed in photographic version.
The decoration of the rest of the building is characterised by two phases: the former, by an unknown “gilder” from Brescia who put his signature behind the altar gable in 1803 and the latter, by an artist from Lovere Giuliano Volpi, who frescoed the sanctuary and, most likely, also performed other decoration work. Volpi, who worked in Sale on restoration works and in Marasino [104] on restorations and new frescos, worked in Conche in around 1897, on the Baptism of Christ (sanctuary dome) and the Beheading of the Baptist (lunette above the altar).
The painting on the right wall (Madonna and Child and Saints) comes from the church of Curetto [102].

Federico Troletti

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

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