The origins of the church of San Nicola (St. Nicholas) in Riva di Solto are poorly documented: originally relying on the parish church of Solto Collina, it became a parish church in the early 16th Century. In 1630 a church was consecrated, built around the 16th Century; San Nicola was later renovated in 1729 and again in 1875, with the intervention of Ernesto and Luigi Paleni, it was further expanded with the addition of the side naves and took on an impression of a more prominent classicism. The work was completed in 1880 and the church was consecrated on September 11 of that year.
The façade is in late Baroque style: arranged on two superimposed orders connected by two large volutes, it is modulated by paired pilasters and culminates in a large curvilinear gable. At the centre there is a sandstone portal and a large window with an open gallery, built in 1898. In 1981, two sculptures by Mario Toffetti, depicting St. Nicholas and St. Joseph, were placed in the side niches.
The interior has three naves comprising of four bays each, which end with an apse that is slightly elevated. The central and more spacious nave, is interspersed by Corinthian half-columns which have frieze and frame on which there is a large barrel vault, while the side naves have a rib vault. The general decoration, between a late Baroque and Neoclassicism style, consists of gilded frames and plaster with garlands and acanthus leaves and pastel-coloured walls. The frescoes were resumed between the 1800s and 1900s. There are doubts concerning the artist of the paintings in the nave due to various interventions which have perhaps distorted the original work of art; the figurative parts, with episodes from the Life of St. Nicholas, were repainted in 1931 by Umberto Marigliani, while the faux architectural works were performed by Fermo Taragni and Guido Zanet. The left nave still boasts the decorations by Giuliano Volpi (1898) and the right nave that of Giuseppe Grimani (1934). In the sanctuary the great fresco of the dome depicting the Glory of St. Nicholas is the 18th Century masterpiece of the church and is the work of the artist Ferdinando Del Cairo.
The side naves house many works from the earlier church. The inside façade, on the sides are the 19th Century Immaculate Conception by Giovanni Battista Riva, the paintings with Joseph’s Dream and the Flight into Egypt date back to the second half of the 17th Century along with the Presentation in the Temple by the artist Pompeo Ghitti from Brescia on the left.
Interesting 16th Century paintings are preserved in the left nave. At the Carrara marble baptismal font, there is a Nativity by a Lombard artist and located in the next two bays are a Deposition from the Lombard area and a nearby Nativity probably attributed to Bassano. The altar of the Virgin Mary was built in 1699 by Selva sculptors and now houses a 19th Century statue of Our Lady in the niche. The Sacred Heart, a 1698 masterpiece by Giulio Selva, displays an elaborate frontal with marble inlays and balusters; the frame is now home to a 19th Century statue of the Sacred Heart.
The high altar was executed in 1785 by the workshop of Fantoni from Rovetta and later restored by Ernesto and Luigi Paleni. The apse is closed off from the altarpiece with the 17th Century altarpiece of St. Nicholas signed by Orazio Pilati from Brescia.
The head of the right nave boasts the 18th Century altar of Relics, also a work by the Selva workshop, which houses some precious silver foil reliquaries. On its walls you can admire the Dispute of Jesus among the doctors and the Resurrection by Nicola Grassi, an artist of Venetian heritage, attributed to the third decade of the 18th Century. The altar of St. Charles was the work of the Camplani worshop in the 19th Century and the frame houses the painting of St. Charles healing the plague victims attributed to work of artists from Brescia of the 17th Century. The 17th Century altarpiece of the altar of the Rosary, depicting Our Lady of the Rosary and saints surrounded by Mysteries, was created in 1614 by an artist from the Bergamo area and closes the nave.
For more information:
BELLINI B., La collina di Solto, Cisano Bergamasco (Bg) 1961, pp. 105-112, 141-144, 149-150.
PASINELLI B., Riva di Solto, Zorzino e Gargarino, Bergamo 2013, pp. 157-183, 200-201.