Thumbnail Image
Francesco Silva
Visitation , Virgin Mary , St. Elizabeth , St. Zechariah , St. Joseph , St. John the Baptist
The Virgin Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, after both women had miraculously become pregnant, is the subject of this chapel. This Visitation is the second of five joyful mysteries in the rosary. The chapel was built between 1605 and 1607. Francesco Silva (1568 - 1641), from Morbio Inferiore in Ticino, sculpted the twelve terracotta statues and installed them in the chapel by 1624. He made the sculptures for the majority of the chapels at Varese, and Francesco's son, Agostino Silva (1628 - 1706), frequently referenced these groups in his own sculptures at the Sacro Monte of Ossuccio. Apart from the four biblical protagonists, the figures are dressed in clothes that reflect seventeenth-century fashions. The young man leading a donkey on the right side of the group wears especially rich and stylish clothes. Fragments of additional unpainted and unfinished sculptured were discovered buried in the foundation of the chapel during restoration efforts in the nineteen-eighties. They suggest that the sculptures were brought to Varese in pieces before being assembled and painted onsite. A few of the figures also hold objects dating to the time of their installation, such as pitchers, bowls, bundles, and canes. Only the violin seems to have been replaced, probably around 1940-45. The frescoes in this chapel were painted by Giovanni Paolo Ghianda (c. 1597 - 1637) of Como in 1624. He worked alongside Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli (1573-1626), il Morazzone, who is known for painting the quadroni of San Carlo at the Duomo in Milan and frescoes for chapels at two other Sacri Monti: Varallo and Orta. The painted landscape in this chapel is believed to imitate the views outside the chapel in order to create a stronger connection between the world of the pilgrim and that of the biblical characters represented in the scene. Bernascone had originally designed a porch for this chapel, like all the others at Varese, but it was never built because it would have obstructed the views of the next chapels from the Via Sacra. / The Sacro Monte sopra Varese is built on Mount Olona, also called Mount Vellate, which is believed to be the site of Saint Ambrose's final victory over an army of Arian heretics in the year 389. A church dedicated to the Madonna del Monte was erected on the site in the 10th century and rebuilt by the duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, in the late 15th century. Two local women established an Augustinian convent there in 1474 and, little more than a century later, another of their number proposed that a Sacro Monte be built leading up to the sanctuary. There are fourteen chapels and three monumental arches illustrating the mysteries of the rosary, preceded by a church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The final mystery is represented by the cult statue on the high altar, which is attributed to Saint Luke. The chapels were designed by Giuseppe Bernascone, il Mancino (1565 - 1627), an architect from Varese who trained with Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527 - 1596), or Pellegrino de' Pellegrini, and constructed quickly between 1605 and 1699. They are significantly larger than the chapels at any other Sacro Monte.
External DOI