The parish church of Solto was built in the 12th Century, as mentioned for the first time in a document of 1180. A first large reconstruction project began in the 15th Century and was most likely concluded on 24th July 1471, when the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Bergamo Ludovico Donato.
The works performed over the following centuries retained the simple and neat structure of the valley baptismal churches on the outer façade. The Sarnico stone adornments are focused on the main portal and above the three-mullioned window. The vaults and decorative motifs with mermaids, garlands and candelabras date back to the mid 16th Century and refer to some internal restoration works performed at an unknown date, between 1535 and 1575; in these decades, the number of altars increased from three to five. Works that no longer exist, but are of significant value are documented during the same period, like the old bell tower – quite different from the existing one, in the shape of a tower with three bells- and the ancient altarpiece carved with the Assumption of the Virgin, closed by doors, in a complex that was most likely fairly imposing.
The old choir stall was demolished between 1615 and 1629, and the current long sanctuary was built, with a vestry annex. The entire rear part of the church was subject to a new restoration work in 1778, when the bell tower was re-built and some touch-ups were performed on the external face of the choir stall.
Works were completed in 1780 and the new altarpiece dedicated to St. Mary of the Assumption was consecrated by Bishop Dolfin. The artist Vincenzo Orelli was commissioned in 1813 to fresco the nave. The cycle, lost due to subsequent restorations, would have been precious historical evidence as it was the last job of the artist who died in the same year and his thriving workshop, which continued to produce light late-Baroque style works until late 19th Century.
In 1908, architect Elia Fornoni started a project that conferred greater uniformity to the interior, despite retaining the church’s layout, according to the neo-18th Century style. Fornoni, a prominent figure in the Bergamo cultural circles between the two centuries, favoured historic styles in all his works. New frames and plasters covered the interior walls, exalting the eight side chapels (four per side), the large arches and tall vault with wide ribs and bright windows. The artist Giuseppe Riva was called upon to re-decorate the vaults of the church and the sanctuary, perhaps because they had deteriorated in just a short period of time, dividing them in large mixtilinear painted backgrounds depicting prophets and scenes of Mary’s life. Somewhat similar to Fornoni in terms of taste and sensitivity, Riva painted a cycle of great decorative value, characterised by a sober and elegant classicism, fully in line with the official maestros that the artist met when attending the Carrara Academy, and above all, the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. The church preserves works and paintings of different periods. The large altarpiece painting depicting the The Assumption of the Virgin (3 x 5 m) is considered to be the last work of Giambettino Cignaroli, which he began in 1770 and was completed by his pupil Pio Piatti. A Madonna with Child by Gian Antonio Zonca (1689) is depicted on the walls of the choir stall, while architect Luigi Angelini designed the new, polychrome marble tribune of the altarpiece (1937).
An Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is preserved on the third altar on the left, a late and very fine work by Domenico Carpinoni. Among the most ancient paintings of the church, one of the best quality copies of The Marriage of the Virgin painted by Romanino for the church of San Giovanni Evangelista (St. John the Evangelist) in Brescia, can be observed on the first altar on the right.
The organ and choir stall are the work of Egidio Sgritta (1863), while the case is an original work by Andrea Fantoni (1708). The impressive wooden pulpit, in front of the organ, was carved by Cesare Zonca from Treviolo (1898), clearly inspired by Fantoni; he also executed the confessional booths.
For more information:
BELLINI B., La collina di Solto, Cisano Bergamasco (Bg) 1961.
PAGNONI L., Chiese parrocchiali bergamasche. Appunti di Storia e Arte, Bergamo 1979, pp. 350-351.
Cover photo credits: Linoolmostudio