Christ among the Doctors (or The Dispute in the Temple)

The Fabbrica del Rosario broke ground on this chapel in May of 1607, but construction was not finished until 1654, an unusually long process for the chapels at Varese. It illustrates the fifth and final glorious mystery of the rosary: Jesus discussing scripture with the temple leaders when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:41 - 52). The frescoes were painted and signed by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (c. 1608 - 1662) in 1650. Nuvolone also painted the sculptures in 1651. The architectural details were painted by either Andrea Villa or his brother Francesco, who were both from Varese and had already worked with Carlo Francesco in Chapel Three. It is unclear when Francesco Silva (1568 - 1641) modeled and installed the sculptures. Many of his other sculptural groups at Varese are inscribed with a date, but this one is not. Experts usually give these works to the last decade of the artist's life. Perhaps after more than twenty years working on the mountain, his signature seemed superfluous. A figure standing on the right side of the group, wearing a red cape, is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist. He turns toward a seated man with a long white beard, whose pose has been compared to Michelangelo's Moses at San Pietro in Vincoli (1513 - 1515). Silva also sculpted the numerous chairs and books inside this chapel, which are made of solid terracotta, whereas the figures are hollow. / 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.
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