There are testimonies dating back to the 15th Century of a first church demolished in 1749 to make space to a new construction on the ruins of the medieval castle of Tavernola. The architect was Giovanni Battista Galli from Como but fairly active in the Sebino and Brescia area. He designed the church of San Silvestro (St. Sylvester) in Folzano and the church of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) in Conche (Sale Marasino). When designing the church, Galli was certainly inspired by the architectures of Giovanni Battista Caniana from Bergamo (author of the parish church of Sale), and master builder in important construction sites. In addition to Caniana, the church of Santa Maria della Pace (St. Mary of Peace) in Brescia was taken as one of the models for the parish church, as it had been recently built and represented a novelty for the territory of Brescia and Bergamo. The Brescia model also explains the presence of the remarkably elegant central dome, element that unifies the entire building.
The façade, fairly sober with regards to the projecting pillar strips, follows a common layout in the Venetian provinces of Terraferma.
The church has a single nave. Two large altars are at the centre, facing the nave covered by an imposing dome, while four slightly deep, side chapels are located at the back of the church, in front of the sanctuary. The 18th Century adornment of the vaults with The Stories of Mary Magdalene was realised by Francesco Savanni from Brescia who depicts the episodes inside mixtilinear frames, with his light and bright style. The frescoes of the main dome instead, were re-depicted in 1956 by Vittorio Manini from Bergamo, who restored many local parish churches and was able to perfectly integrate his work with the 18th Century pre-existing elements.
The interesting wooden choir stall stands out behind the 19th Century marble high altar, carved by sculptor Giovanni Sanz (1705); it comes from the old parish church and was adapted to the new, slightly shorter apse with visible cuts. Beside the altar, the sanctuary’s benches were realised by the German Ignazio Hillepront (1707). Above the choir stall, the altarpiece of St. Mary Magdalene receiving the Holy Communion by St. Jerome is signed and dated 1798 by Vincenzo Angelo Orelli.
Two altarpieces are originally from the ancient parish church: The Crucifix with St. Francis, St. Charles and St. Firmus, signed and dated by the painter Stefano Viviani in 1618, in the sacristy, and St. Anthony of Padua with St. Lucy, St. Agatha, St. Apollonia, St. Ursula used again as altarpiece of the first altar on the left of the sanctuary.
The church’s masterpiece consists in the marble altar of Our Lady of the Rosary (second on the left) commissioned to Fantoni’s workshop in 1784 but completed in 1798. The central medallion of the frontal of the altar depicts The Battle of Lepanto (1571) won thanks to the Virgin’s intercession on the celebration day of the Rosary; the white marble bas-relief represents the Virgin who chases away infidels, waving the Rosary. The paintings of the Mysteries of the Rosary contained inside oval plaster frames were the work of a Venetian painter in the mid 18th Century, featuring similar techniques to Savanni. The niche houses a wooden statue of the Madonna and Child by Virgilio Vavassori (1936) which replaces a more ancient statue with garments, while the marble statues of St. Domenic and St. Catherine are located on the sides of the altar.
In front, the remarkable altar of San Luigi Gonzaga (St. Louis Gonzaga) features two marble allegories of Faith and Humility on the sides, and two Angels in the gable: the sculptures have always been considered the latest works of Sante Calegari Il Giovane. Obviously initiated by the sculptor, they were however completed by an unknown Lombard artist that worked the shapes with briefer and simpler techniques; most likely the sculptures were re-touched when the altarpiece commissioned to Sante Cattaneo was received in 1808. The paintings with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Christ in the Olive Grove were realised by Antonio Guadagnini (1880).
For more information:
RIGON L., L’altare della B. V. del Rosario nella parrocchiale di Tavernola, Tavernola (Bg) 2008.
FORESTI G., La parrocchiale di Santa Maria Maddalena in Tavernola bergamasca, Tavernola (Bg) 2008.