CHURCH OF SAN BERNARDINO


 

The church was built around the middle of the fifteenth century, by the Franciscan friars of the Third Order who settled in the locality of Erba in those years: it is an important fact that testifies to the rapid spread of the cult of San Bernardino (canonized in 1450) that during his life had brought his preaching to this area as well.

The building, raised above the street level and that of the churchyard, is made of exposed stone with a simple gabled facade, in which the portal and, above it, a lunette open; the small bell tower is grafted onto a pitch of the roof. Along the right side, it is possible to see the sacristy room, a later addition to the original church: following his pastoral visit to the Pieve di Incino in 1584, in fact, St. Charles Borromeo ordered its construction.

The hall with a single nave, on which the square-shaped presbytery is grafted, is divided into two bays by an ogival arch. The two altars at the back of the hall, indicated in a plan created around 1584 and preserved among the documents of the Diocesan Historical Archives of Milan, no longer exist.

There is preserved an important cycle of frescoes, covered with a layer of lime during the plague of 1630 and returned to light only after the restoration of 1956. These paintings, which affect the triumphal arch and the presbytery, were made by different hands and in different eras; most are contemporary with the construction of the church.

The triumphal arch is decorated with an Adoration of the Magi, an Annunciation and an eighteenth-century Crucifixion. In the Adoration of the Magi one can observe the richness of the robes, the attention to detail and the landscape which are a testimony of the late Gothic style; at the top of the arch, the Eternal Father among a host of angels attends the Annunciation: the figures of the announcing Angel and the announced Virgin are distant, but connected by a single architectural structure.

Some scholars believe that the setting of these frescoes is attributable to Sienese models due to the lengthening of the figures, the fluidity of the drapery and the framed front of the Annunciation; this peculiarity would be justified by the presence of Friar Baldassarre dei Grammatici, a native of Siena.

On the barrel vault of the presbytery, the Christ in almond between the Tetramorph (the symbols of the Evangelists) was made at the end of the fifteenth century with a typically medieval setting; also on the vault, on the left side, are represented, in two panels, Sant’Antonio abate, San Bernardino and Sant’Ambrogio (under which the inscription: “mcccclviiii. hoc. opus. fecit. fieri. ans. antonius …” ) and San Bernardino again.

On the left wall, San Rocco bears the date of execution: “1576. of the. 27. Settembre ”, while on the back wall a Crucifixion between the Madonna and Saints John and Bernardino (made by the same hand that worked on the vault) is flanked by San Bernardino and San Carlo Borromeo dating back to the eighteenth century. Emphasis is placed on the frequency of the depictions of St. Bernardino, testifying to the widespread diffusion of his cult.

As has already been mentioned, the frescoes were made by artists and in different eras. Even the most ancient paintings can be traced back to different painters, more precisely to four personalities: the first author created the Crucifixion in the apse and the blessing Christ of the vault; the second the Saints on the sides of the altar; the third the Annunciation (and the rest of the triumphal arch) and the fourth the Adoration of the Magi.