Church of Saint Roch
The Baroque Structure on the Shore of Lake Orta
Miasino, visible from the street coming from Ameno, is defined on either side by two structures of more historical and artistic interest: in the upper part of the town stands the awe-inspiring parish church of Saint Roch, while in the lower part one can clearly make out the exceptional elegance of the Nigra Villa.
The Church of Saint Roch is one of the most interesting buildings of the Lombard Baroque era. It was the bishop G.P. Volpi from Novara, taking advantage of the remains of an even older Romantic structure, who laid the first stone of the new construction project, which wouldn’t be consecrated for another 20 years. When it was finally consecrated in 1648 by Antonio Tornielli, it was dedicated to Saint Roch, protector of those struck by the plague. The project was entrusted to one of the most important architects of the Lombard Baroque era, Francesco Maria Richini, or Richino (1584-1658), who attentively interpreted the new post-Tridentine regulations regarding religious architecture, sanctioned by the archbishop of Milan, Carlo Borromeo.
The church, Latin cross-shaped with a unique nave, measures approximately 45 meters (150 feet) long and 27 meters (90 feet) wide (one of the largest in the Novara Diocese) and is without a doubt one of the richest, which historian Lazzaro Agostino Cotta made note of in his well-known volume on the Orta Coast: “A temple worthy of this large and distinguished city: for it appears to arrange a meeting of the noble competitors architecture, artwork, and sculptures.”
Visiting the church, you will be immediately struck by its decorative furnishings: the six recently restored shrines facing its nave provide a summary of Lombard and Cusio Baroque Art. Having so many works of arts of such high quality is quite an achievement; this was made possible by the generosity of the middle-class families of Miasino who came into money in the late sixteenth century, travelling between cities such as Milan, Lucca, and Rome as merchants or to manage taverns.
The walls of the building are home to a veritable gallery of pictures, as well as splendid Baroque wooden altarpieces of rare beauty. Among the many seventeenth and eighteenth century paints, the works of Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Giuseppe Nuvolone, Legnanino, Giovanni Odazzi, Federico Bianchi, Andrea Lanzani, Antonio Franchi, Pietro Paolini, Pier Francesco Gianoli, Giuseppe Zanatta, and Rocco Bonola are especially cherished. There are also rich frescoes by Carlo Cane from Gallarate and G. B. Cantaluppi from Miasino, who painted here as part of their first important commissions.
Many of the aforementioned artists have painted parts of the grandiose series of canvases (late seventeenth century) dedicated to episodes in the life of Saint Roch of Montpellier; this cycle of paintings unfolds in both the otherwise useless rectangular apse and on the counter. The canvases in the presbytery and transept were painted later, in 1834. These pieces, particularly those made of wood, are said to be valuable to the heritage of the art of sculpture. Examples of this include the splendid gilded altarpieces in the chapel on the left, a group made up of the Crucified Christ, the Virgin, Saint John, and Magdalene, that overlooks the great triumphant arc, the choir, and the large piece of furniture from the sacristy on the right. These works of art date back to more or less the middle of the seventeenth century and are the works of well-known master sculptors such as Giorgio De Bernardi, the Vergas, Antonio Pino, and Bartolomeo Tiberino.
Until the 1920s, the church’s façade remained unfinished in the upper register: it was completed in 1933 with the help of funds gathered by the high priest Stefano Cominazzini and the designs provided by the architect Carlo Nigra, who lived in Miasino in a villa named after himself.
Since Richini’s original project documents have been lost for some time, Nigra closely examined the great Milanese architecture, hoping to interpret its elegant style while at the same time painstakingly measuring and analyzing it.
After being abandoned and left to fall apart, the parish church of Saint Roch was fairly recently returned to its present splendor, thanks to the devotion of the high priest Don Primo Cologni, joined here in 1997 by other Premonstratensian clergymen.
Open during church services or upon request.