Upstream of the small hillside village of Zorzino, the limpid late 15th Century volumes of the small church of San Bernardino (St. Bernardino) clash with the far more majestic proportions of the new parish church, designed as a reflection on the architectural tradition of Bergamo in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
The church of San Bernardino was built in 1482 to replace the ancient care for souls San Cassiano (St. Kassian), located far from the inhabited area and now insufficient. Located along the ancient route to Solto Collina, on the edge of the fields, it is characterised by the contrast between the neat corners and the grey stone block buttresses and ancient plasterwork on which there are still traces of devotional frescoes on the north side. The interior, currently not open to visitors, has a trapezoidal shape with a cross vault; the sanctuary was painted with mural paintings between the 15th and 16th Century, now detached and transferred to the new parish church; in the 17th Century the bell tower and two chapels with plaster decorations were added on the south side, but then partly demolished.
Santa Croce (Holy Cross) is a single-nave church with a deep semicircular apse and four chapels and was designed by the architect Giovanni Muzio in 1919 and built between 1924 and 1933. The furniture of the ancient church was brought to this church.
Despite the changed relationship with the environment, much wider than the apse of San Bernardino, the monumental and crowded composition of the high altar altarpiece, designed by Flaminio Floriani pictor venetus in around 1585 is what catches the eye. The individual figures of the brightly coloured Madonna in Glory with Saints Margaret, Jerome, Hyppolitus, Bernardino, Francis, John the Baptist and Sebastian, painted in around 1585 by Flaminio Fiorani Pictor venetus, refer to the great artists of the Venetian scene, from Titian to Veronese and Tintoretto. The monumental wooden tabernacle attributed to a maestro Zenes from Brescia was erected in the mid 17th Century. The altar in local black marble with shoot inlays, like the steps, was the work of the Selva workshop a little later on (1689?), a family of marble workers from Como who settled in Riva di Solto in the 17th Century and were very active in the area, often in cooperation with the Fantoni workshop. The holy oil tabernacle (1696), is part of the same decoration campaign adorned with naturalistic marquetry, like its door, where the inlaid woodwork imitates a flourishing bush of roses and lilies.
Of the side altars, that of the Rosary is worthy of mention with the triptych of the Our Lady of the Rosary with St. Dominic and St. Catherine, surrounded by Mysteries, in the centre, and Saints Peter and Paul on the sides: in the archaic structure and the simplicity of the frame, the artist Giovan Battista Viola from Val Camonica painted 16th Century models in 1651.
The Madonna and Child and Saints Charles and Anthony of Padua and angels on the inside façade is also most interesting: it is a copy of a splendid painting by Giulio Cesare Procaccini for St. Afra of Brescia in around 1615-1620. On the left wall there is the Madonna and Sleeping Child holding a rose, an allusion to the Passion of Christ, the work of a Lombard artist in the mid 17th Century inspired by famous models, Raphael, Caravaggio, probably identified by inscriptions.
In the Seventies the detached fragments of frescoes from San Bernardino were transferred to the new parish. On the inside façade the Madonna and Child with Saints Bernardino and a holy martyr inside a refined architectural framing is by far the highest quality painting: dated around 1482-1483, it was the image of the high altar until the realisation of the altarpiece by Flaminio Floriani. From the same wall above the high altar came Christ crucified between St. Bernardino and Virgin Mary, the St. Bernardino and the Madonna and Child with St Bernardino now in the sanctuary; they were all works completed within a few decades between 1482 and the early 1500s by Lombard culture artists. From the left wall of the sanctuary came the refined fragment with St. Roch, on the left, and Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, identified by inscriptions, on the right, now in the sacristy, while The martyrdom of blessed Simonino now in the sanctuary is of uncertain origin.
For more information:
B. PASINELLI, Riva di Solto, Zorzino e Gargarino, Riva di Solto 2013, pp. 223-250.
Cover photo credits: Linoolmostudio