The church stands at 969 m above sea level, on a small plateau on the ‘Mut dei Pagà’, and is reached after a steep climb through the woods along the easily tackled path no. 721. From the church it is possible to admire the stunning view stretching from Val Seriana (Seriana valley) to Valle Camonica (Camonica valley) as far as the Sebino lowlands.
There is information available suggesting an ancient origin: the dominant position, the dedication to the Trinity, rather rare, which is often associated to stories of the early 11th Century and Cluny related origins; the dedications of the Parzanica churches to the holy abbots Colombano (Columban), Mauro (Maurice) and Gottardo (Gotthard) give the idea of a context linked to a monastic environment. Remains of walls can be seen scattered around the church, evidence that perhaps it had been used for defensive purposes, also suggested by the local name of castei dei Pagà (the Pagan Castle).
The structures, plastered and repaired, do not provide any certain chronological history: the present version, a single nave church and canonically oriented semi-circular apse, stands on rock to the north and east while the west side of the nave is the result of a 15th Century extension and consists of a number of front basement rooms that originally formed the hermitage and used by the church keeper or to provide hospitality to visitors. The few visible masonry sections would suggest a dating of 11th – 12th Century for the first phase of the church and basement environments.
The apse is completely decorated, as was once the front of the arch that separates it from the nave; there are traces of paintings in the upper portion and, on the left, part of Sant’Antonio abate (St. Anthony Abbot). The Trinity within the vesica piscis (almond-shaped) occupies half the apse; to the sides you find the patron saint of Parzanica, San Colombano (St. Colomban) and two Saint bishops, and, above them, two flying angels. It is likely that there was a fourth saint on the right, destroyed by the opening of the window. The state of preservation, which seems good at first sight, is actually the result of various repainting works over the last century, the most recent dated 1993, and previously. To the extent possible, the Trinity has been evaluated as dating back to the 15th Century, but repainted several times with the addition of different colours. You can see, for example, the profile of the almond shape which will originally have shown a colour which was gradually shaded from the centre towards the outside. The yellow-ochre band consisted of a myriad of black and white cherubs, as you can see by the few surviving details. The body of Christ has also undergone several reconstructions, also to the plaster work. One possible comparison can be made with the frescoes in the apse of the church of Santi Ippolito e Cassiano (St. Hippolitus and Cassiano) in Gargarino.
St. Roch and the Holy Martyr in the intrados of the arch in the sanctuary are to be dated between the late 15th and early 16th Centuries. What is more interesting, because it has not been repainted, is the St. John the Baptist positioned on the front of the nave arch. There is then the image, created by the carving of lime plaster, of a devout person praying in the direction of the Nodo di Salomone (Solomon’s Knot); there is a date engraved that critics have read as MC (1100). The very doubtful inscription and the posture of the devout person seen from the side would suggest, however, a more recent dating to the 15th Century, which could be in line with the work that significantly altered the structure of the church.
The intense Christ at the Column by Gian Riccardo Piccoli (1991), in an 18th Century frame is also worthy of mention.
Monica Ibsen e Federico Troletti
For more information:
BORDOGNA A., Parzanica, Sarnico 1997.