CHURCH OF SANT’EUFEMIA


 

The Romanesque church of Sant’Eufemia di Incino d’Erba is one of the oldest ex-plebane churches in the Larian Triangle, in the province of Como and in the Archdiocese of Milan. The parish church of Incino is one of the largest and oldest parishes in the area (in 1285 it was assigned as many as 61 churches, the church is located on the ancient road axis that connected Aquileia Brescia, Bergamo, Como and Ivrea also mentioned in the Peutingeriana Table. Incino it is cited by Pliny the Younger as Licini forum.

The church is dedicated to Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon, a saint particularly dear to the followers of the tricapitolino schism because the council of Chalcedon, to which the schismatics referred, took place in the basilica dedicated to this saint.

It is therefore possible that the current dedication of the church dates back to a later time than the time of the original construction.

The bishop of Como Agrippino had a particularly active role in spreading the tricapitolino creed and the cult to the saint, and the dedication of the church of Erba is traced back to this period and these events together with the other dedications of the basilica of Sant’Eufemia in Grado, the church of Santa Eufemia di Como (now the basilica of San Fedele), the basilica of Sant’Eufemia on the Comacina island, that of Oggiono, Teglio and that of the castle of Musso.

However, it is also probable that, given the presence of more ancient structures, for the churches of Como, Incino and Isola the cult is older and goes back directly to Sant’Abbondio which played a leading role in the Council of Chalcedon.

The original construction of the church dates back to the mid-fifth century.

In the following centuries it underwent several extensions and alterations, mainly internal, the last of which was in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, when the plebeian seat was moved to the church of Santa Maria Nascente in the center of Erba (1584). These works, even if at times heavy, have not completely erased the primitive physiognomy.

The building with masonry marked by pilasters, has a rectangular plan with a single nave and apsidal ceiling with wooden trusses. The semicircular apse is the oldest part of the church, in its external wall the ancient windows of the early Christian period are still visible, closed in later periods. The building, initially with the rearmost front, was enlarged in the seventeenth century, while in the eighteenth century it was lengthened in its western part up to bring it close to the bell tower.

The archaeological excavation campaign conducted in 1994 under the direction of Sauro Gelichi of the University of Pisa and Isabella Nobili of the Como Museum, allowed the recovery of the ancient structure of the early medieval baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist, as documented by sources historical until 1609.

The baptistery stood in front of the church, had a square plan with a square apse to the east added at a later time and in the center the circular baptismal font, built on top of an older one of the same shape.

The imposing bell tower 32.7 meters high, which covers a large part of the entrance façade, was built in the 11th century with the use of Roman remains (including some tombstones ) and has three superimposed orders of single, double and triple lancet windows with variously decorated columns and was initially detached from the construction of the church. In medieval times it also served as a watchtower and defense tower for the whole church. In the same period of its construction, the triapsidal crypt which was placed under the church was also excavated. The crypt and the baptistery in danger of being demolished in the seventeenth century  with the loss of the provost’s dignity which passed in favor of the church of Santa Maria Nascente.

In the southern part, more recent buildings, already inhabited by the priests who made up the college of the parish church of Incino, lean against the body of the building. The whole complex was surrounded by a defensive wall, attested at least until the middle of the sixteenth century.

Between the apse of the baptistery and the construction of the church, several tombs were found which attest to the use of the area as a cemetery.

There are two figurative testimonies from the Romanesque period: above the portal, the sculptural fragment depicting Christ holding an open book in his hand; inside, a valuable marble stoup with human heads in relief, engraved with the date 1212 and the letters PAMEF, the meaning of which has been interpreted as: “Petrus Antonius me fecit.

On the eastern side, the external wall of the structure next to the apse houses two ancient sarcophagus lids, previously used as structural elements of a mallet dating back to no later than the 10th century.

Inside, on the right, a chapel which was established by the most important local Parravicini family, preserves an ancient fresco of the Madonna remodeled in the last century.

In front of the chapel of the Madonna, there is a late medieval popular fresco, depicting the Virgin and Child between saints and patrons; on the sides of the fresco there are two sixteenth-century altarpieces depicting “The Annunciation”, on the right and the “Virgin and Child with San Giovannino”, on the left, by unknown authors.

But the most noteworthy work of great artistic value is a large wooden Crucifix of the sixteenth century with a painted figure of Christ, in the Giottesque style. In the panels, placed in the four terminal points of the Cross and only come to light during the restoration in 1983, are portrayed: on the left the Virgin of Sorrows dressed in black, on the right St. John, above the Christ the Redeemer who indicates with his right hand the Holy Trinity and with his left hand he holds the world, below the gathering cup of Christ’s blood.

Also noteworthy is the high altar in Baroque style and, near the altar of the Madonna, an eighteenth-century scagliola frontal.

On the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, at the behest of Archbishop Carlo Maria Martini, the ancient plebeian of Sant’Eufemia di Incino was counted among the 23 jubilee churches of the Archdiocese of Milan.