Christ at the Tribunal of Herod

This chapel was built between 1619 and c. 1627 to house a scene of Christ's presentation at the Court of King Herod, who was the local ruler of Galilee during Jesus' lifetime. Herod, who was called Herod Antipas to differentiate him from his father Herod the Great, questioned Jesus, but sent him back to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to be sentenced. The chapel was funded by the people of Valsesia, the valley that encompasses Varallo and its Sacro Monte. Bordiga records that Bishop Bascapè wrote a letter to the Fabbricieri in 1606 giving them permission to take 300 scudi from the offerings collected at mass in order to begin work on this chapel. It was designed by Bartolomeo Ravelli and Giovanni d'Enrico. Giovanni d'Enrico is also responsible for decorating the chapel's interior, along with his two brothers Melchiorre d'Enrico and Antonio d'Enrico (c. 1575 - 1633), who was called Tanzio da Varallo. Giovanni, the eldest brother, had modeled and installed the thirty-five, life-sized, terracotta figures by 1628. Melchiorre seems to have painted the statues later that same year, and Tanzio, who had already started work on the frescoes by that time, finished then in 1630. This is believed to be Tanzio's final work at Varallo and his last collaboration with the family workshop before his death (c. 1635). In addition to the large crowd and trompe l'oeil architecture that occupies most of the wall space, he painted two distant scenes of Christ's mother and followers under the archways closest to the viewer. The scene on the viewer's right shows the meeting between Mary and her son, which was later recognized as the Fourth Station of the Cross, but otherwise does not appear at Varallo. A young man carrying a white overcoat seems to enter the scene from underneath the same arch. Jesus is wearing the garment when he meets his mother, and Gaudenzio Bordiga explains that kind of robe was given to distinguish those who were believed to be mad. In 1826, the Marchesa Severina San Martino Parella funded the restoration of the interior decorations inside this chapel and its neighbor, Christ at the Tribunal of Caiaphas (Chapel Twenty-Five). Elena de Filippis notes that one of the figures was repainted again by Giacomo Boccioloni in 1831. Two of the stone columns supporting the porch were replaced in 1846, and the remaining two were replaced a few years later, in 1857. Like many so many others at Varallo, the roof of this chapel was raised and rebuilt in 1884. It was repaired again in 1982 and 1998. Conservators treated the statues in 1993 and the windows in 1994. Dr. Carla Tomasi and her team carried out the most recent restoration of the interior decorations in 2018-2019. / Varallo was the first Sacro Monte in Northern Italy. The collection of chapels on the hilltop overlooking Varallo was established by Bernardino Caimi (before 1450 - 1499 or 1500) as a way of recreating the sights and experiences of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He organized the chapels according to their Holy Land geography and incorporated architectural details from the pilgrimage churches corresponding to each scene. Caimi chose Varallo to be the site of his New Jerusalem in 1481, he received papal permission to begin collecting donations in 1486, and he is believed to have overseen the project from 1491, when the first chapel was finished, until his death. Different writers have counted each of these dates as the year of the Sacro Monte founding. Many of the early chapels were decorated by Gaudenzio Ferrari (c. 1480 - 1546), who was born nearby and gained a reputation during his lifetime as one of the leading painters in Lombardy. Saint Carlo Borromeo (1538 - 1584) visited the Sacro Monte multiple times while he was Archbishop of Milan (1564 - 1584). Carlo and his contemporaries implemented new policies to clarify Catholic doctrine and structure spiritual practices in Milan after the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). Carlo Bascapè (1550 - 1615), Saint Carlo's close friend and the Bishop of Novara, personally oversaw a building campaign to reorganize the chapels at Varallo and restructure the pilgrimage experience according to the ideals of the Counter-Reformation. These changes were largely based on designs by Galeazzo Alessi (1512 - 1572), which are collected and preserved in a manuscript called the Libro dei Misteri (1565 - 1569) in Varallo's Biblioteca Civica. Construction continued throughout the first half of the seventeenth-century, led primarily by Giovanni d'Enrico the Younger (c. 1559 - 1644) and his family workshop. Beginning in 1609, d'Enrico also supervised the construction of the new Basilica, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. The Basilica was consecrated in 1649 and the old church, or Chiesa Vecchia, was demolished in 1773, but the Chiesa Nuova was not finished until the façade was added in 1891 - 1896.
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