Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

This chapel was planned by Galeazzo Alessi and the composition is closely based on his design from the Libro dei Misteri (1565 - 1569). It was built between 1572 and 1576 and the decorations were all finished by 1580. The artist who modeled the circular well, tree, and two life-sized figures in stucco remains unknown. As usual, Butler suggested an attribution to Jean de Wespin (Il Tabachetti), albeit with some hesitation, and Cattaneo gave the works to Fermo Stella. Neither of these attributions seem very likely, however, given that the vast majority of the figures that survive by these artists across the Sacri Monti are made of terracotta and these are gesso. Stefania Stefani Perrone suggests that these figures may have been shipped to Varallo from a Milanese workshop in 1572. The frescoes are attributed to a local artist Gian Giacomo Testa, who painted them sometime between 1576 and 1580. According to Stefani Perrone, there are two inscriptions inside the wooden barrier recording restoration efforts in 1715 by Pietro Giovanni Martissi and 1821 by Giovanni Boccioloni and Antonio Chiara. Elena de Filippis also writes that Giovanni Albertone repaired one of the woman's feet in 1831 and the new section was painted by Boccioloni. The chapel's roof was raised and repaired in 1979, the paintings and sculptures were restored again in 1986 - 1997, and portions of the grate were replaced between 2001 and 2008. In 2008 - 2009 another exterior wall was added outside the existing one to insulate the chapel and protect the works inside from the humidity. The first image of this scene, which was printed in Giovanni Giacomo Ferrari's Brevi considerazioni Sopra i Misteri del Sacro Monte di Varallo (1611), looks much like the modern group apart from the fact that it is printed in reverse. / 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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