The Church of San Giorgio (St George), overlooking the medieval borgo, along the Valley road, is one of the oldest religious buildings in Lovere.
Today nothing remains of the first structure, remembered since 1252. Documentary evidence of the expansion of the church dates back to 1462, taking on a Latin cross plan. In 1485 the upper part of the Soca Tower, standing in the main street of Lovere, but lower than the church of St. George, was demolished. The remaining part of the tower was then used as an unusual base to rest the new church sanctuary on, thus taking on the same shape as the tower-house.
Both the church interior and façade were renovated in the 17th Century with the first level of the gabled façade plastered in imitation ashlar. The sandstone gate, built in 1655, by the Lovere sculptor, Simone Sacella, is dominated by the statue of St. George, work of the neoclassical sculptor, Giovanni Maria Benzoni. Count Luigi Tadini placed the statue here in the first half of the 19th Century.
The church shows a three aisle interior and decorations of classical style, fruit of restoration work carried out in 1877-1878 to the design of Giuseppe Pellini. The centre nave is marked by Corinthian semi-columns supporting a framed frieze, on which a large barrel vault is set. The side aisles are cross vaulted. Giuliano Volpi saw to adorning the sanctuary once restoration work was complete in 1899-1900.
An outstanding canvas, within a large black marble frame, painted by the Antwerp painter Jan de Herdt in 1657, hangs on the counter-façade. It depicts Moses Striking Water from the Rock. Fragments of the lost 18th Century adornment, with the quadrature (illusionistic paintings) painted by Carlo Molinari in 1737-1738 are visible below.
The side altars have valuable works belonging to furnishings of the previous Church. These include sculptures from the wood carvers Fantoni workshop of Rovetta, two wooden Angels (1717) in the left aisle, placed on the altar of our Lady of the Rosary and a large 17th Century Crucifix on the altar by the same name. Whilst, in the right aisle, on the altar of Saint Joseph, is the statue of the Saint from the end of the 17th Century. The throne of Our Lady of the Rosary (1721) to the right of the presbytery entrance, on top of the 16th Century baptistery, and two 1730 Angels on the high altar are also from the Fantoni workshop.
The altars of St. Anthony of Padua and of the Sacred Heart in the left aisle are also of note. The former, built in 1661, has a statue of the saint in the recess attributed to the sculptor Pietro Ramus. The Last Supper painted by Giovanni Paolo Cavagna in 1589-90 can be admired on the altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the left apse. The 17th Century marble frame and altar were created by the sculptor Carlo Carra of Brescia whilst the two statues on either side, of Humility and Charity, are by Antonio Calegari (1739), arriving in Lovere from Brescia with the purchase of the altar of San Barnaba Church, now in the South aisle.
The sanctuary, with the 18th Century gilded wood altar, is dominated by the precious frame made by the engraver Girolamo de Nodari in 1589-1590 containing the painting of the Martyrdom of Saint George by Antonio Gandino. To the side there are two large paintings by Antonio Cifrondi with Two Saints on Horseback, dated 1710-1720.
The right aisle opens with the altar of Our Lady. Created by Antonio Calegari in 1739 for the chapel of the Virgin of the belt in the San Barnaba Church of Brescia, it was brought here in 1879 when the church was abolished. Along the aisle the 17th Century altar of the Madonna dello Spasimo, by the Carra sculptors, not only contains an urn with the relics of Saints Bartolomea and Vincenza of Lovere but also a 16th Century fresco of the Piety.
Lastly, the Immaculate Conception with Saints Bernardino and Franciscus of Paola by Francesco Monti of Bologna, created around the middle of the 18th Century, can be admired on the 18th Century wooden altar of the Immaculate Conception.
For more information:
SINA A., La parrocchia di Lovere. Note di storia con illustrazioni, Lovere 1926, pp. 27-46
SCALZI G. A., La chiesa di S. Giorgio martire in Lovere. Brevi note storiche per guida alla visita, in “La voce di Lovere”, XLX, nn. 6-7, giugno/luglio 1996, pp. 12-14
PACIA A., Jan de Herdt a Lovere. Il recupero di un capolavoro e un ritratto inedito, in “I quaderni del Centro Civico Culturale”, n. 2, 2009.
Cover photo credits: G. Bonomelli