The imposing religious building was erected by Vespasian, who ordered, in 1562, the...
Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo
The imposing religious building was commissioned by Vespasiano, who in 1562 ordered the demolition of the old parish church, built within the castle walls. The Lord of Sabbioneta entrusted the design of the new church to Pietro Martire Pesenti, known as 'il Sabbioneta', which was then consecrated and officiated from 1582.
In the vast building site of the Assunta, alongside local craftsmen, prominent figures such as Bernardino Campi and his collaborators worked.
In 1684, based on a design by Antonio Galli Bibiena, the plebeian archpriest's church was built, with the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, an octagonal plan and a spectacular double dome, the inner one of which is perforated.
The single-nave longitudinal plan consists of five chapels on each side and a transept onto which the presbytery and apse are grafted. These chapels are identified as follows:
- The bell tower formerly Baptistery
- Chapel of St Sebastian
- Chapel of St Peter
- Holy Family
- Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua
- New Baptistery
- Chapel of St Francis
- Chapel of Saint Lucia
The dome depicts the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, while the compartments depict the prophets Zechariah, Hosea, Haggai and David.
The faux architecture of the apse basin features a balustrade on which two angels holding a starry crown are painted.
The vault of the nave features three large frescoes:
- Mercy Embraced by Truth
- The triumph of the Theological Virtues over Heresy
- Divine Peace and Justice embraced
The medals at the base of the vault depict four Virtues on each side: Justice, Prayer, Meekness and Innocence on the right, Prudence, Charity, Peace and Penance on the left.
On the counter-façade is a rose window with the figure of Christ.
The Church of the Assumption, an extraordinary architectural and pictorial jewel, also houses a wealth of sacred relics, including two famous ones: the Holy Thorn of the Crown of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the miraculous Crucifix donated by St Charles Borromeo.
Some protagonists of Vespasian's time, such as the secretary Capilupi and Captain Messerotti, are buried in the church.
The sacristy, built at the behest of Isabella Gonzaga, is a refined and evocative environment, embellished in the 1870s by frescoes, stuccoes and paintings set in the vast barrel-vaulted hall. Today it presents itself in its Rococo style, with sumptuous wooden furnishings reflecting the elegant taste in carvings.
In the centre of the vault is a large 18th-century fresco by Giorgio Anselmi, depicting Moses and Aaron in prayer.
The room is enriched by a conspicuous collection of paintings, including a series of ovals depicting eight major episodes in the life of the Virgin Mary.
Oratory of San Rocco
The museum section of the Pinacoteca San Luca is located here, a large collection of important paintings. Alongside the ancient altarpieces, there is also a section of modern art.
There are 11 roundels with the Mysteries of the Rosary from the Church of the Assumption, an altarpiece with the Martyrdom of St. Vincent, St. Vincent in Prison, the Temptation and the Glory of St. Vincent, a Virgin and Child, St. Francis and St. Rocco.
Like the whole town of Sabbioneta, the Oratory of San Rocco, located in the square of the same name next to Piazza Ducale, dates back to the mid-16th century.
In the 17th century the Oratory underwent some structural changes that gave it the appearance it still has, while at the end of the 18th century, at the same time as the renovation of the furnishings of Sabbioneta's religious buildings, a cycle of evocative frescoes was commissioned from the painter Giovanni Morini da Viadana.
A plaque walled into the plinth of the façade bears the names of early Christian martyrs whose relics were once kept here before being moved to the shrines of the parish church.
The pendentives of the dome are frescoed with the figures of the four Evangelists and the animals of the Apocalypse. In the panels of the vault, stories of St Vincent are painted.
Until the end of the 16th century, this place of worship was home to the Confraternity of the Disciplini, who enjoyed the unique privilege, granted by Vespasiano, of being able to free a person condemned to death on Good Friday.
The oratory houses the sepulchre of Niccolò de Dondi, biographer of Duke Vespasian and exceptional chronicler.
In 1559, the body of Diana Cardona, first wife of Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna, was buried here, where no trace has mysteriously been found.
Church of the Blessed Virgin Incoronata (Mausoleum of Vespasian)
The Chiesa dell'Incoronata, embellished by the severe mausoleum of the duke, on which the bronze statue of Vespasian by Leone Leoni stands out, was to serve as palatine chapel and pantheon of the ruling dynasty. For this reason it was entrusted to the care of the Servite friars, present in Sabbioneta since 1448.
The characteristic octagonal plan, deliberately in contrast with the dictates of the Council of Trent, is well suited to house a mausoleum. The church, built between 1586 and 1588, houses the tomb of the Duke, who is buried here with the pendant of the Golden Fleece, the highest knightly honour that Emperors and Kings of Spain bestowed on persons worthy of prestige and honour.
It stands on two pre-existing places of worship, the older one dedicated to St Blaise (the ancient patron saint of Sabbioneta), the more recent one to St Nicholas, whose liturgical memory coincided with Vespasian's birthday on 6 December.
In 1592 the bell tower was added to the octagonal block, with a small portico with three arches (openings).
The church's substantial elevation is divided into three orders, which emphasise the contamination between painting and architecture, through a constant illusionistic proposition of great emotional impact:
- The first has faux marble motifs, faux coffers in the arcades and illusionistic boxes with balustrades on the sides of the altars;
- the second corresponds to the women's gallery, decorated with faux-marble motifs and architectural motifs emphasising the profiles of the arcades, with four plaques offering biblical inscriptions alternating with faux-shell niches;
- the dome reveals balustrades on which urns rest, silhouetted against a mock sky. The dome reveals balustrades on which urns rest, silhouetted against a mock sky. Four windows and four circular windows are painted on mock coffers, which shrink as they approach the lantern.
The mausoleum, located to the left of the high altar, was commissioned from Giovan Battista della Porta by Isabella Gonzaga, thus fulfilling the testamentary disposition of her father Vespasiano. Extremely rare and precious antique marbles were used: Rosso di Siena, Giallo antico, Africano antico, Broccatello di Spagna, Verde antico or Serpentino, Pietra di Paragone, Moscato d'Ardese.
In the niches on either side of the bronze statue, which was placed there from the square but is not the right size for the stall, where the conditor appears seated on the chair curulis, dressed like an ancient Roman emperor, with a book clutched in his right hand and his left hand raised in an unintelligible attitude, perhaps in the act of shaping his ideal city, appear the marble statues of Justice and Fortitude.
A room in the church contains armoured cases containing silverware and precious fabrics, chalices and religious objects, as well as numerous coins of the State of Sabbioneta, including the testone and ducatone of Vespasiano Gonzaga.
The church has an ancient bell dating back to the time of Vespasiano.
Church of S. Antonio Abate in Villa Pasquali
In 1765 Don Giovanni Battista Pedrazzi, canon of the Prepositura di Villa Pasquali, commissioned the famous architect Antonio Luigi Galli Bibiena to design, build and decorate a vast basilica.
The monumental church, with its daring architecture, is an authentic Baroque masterpiece. Unique in the world for the vastness of its vaults pierced in the masonry of the dome and apses, a prodigy of architecture.
As you enter the church, you get the impression of a very special spatial character; the nave, wide and shallow, seems to act as a vestibule to the space on which the dome is set, supported by the transepts and the presbytery, crowned by a semicircular apse.
The architectural and decorative refinement of the perforated double vault is significantly accentuated by the strictly natural lighting, thanks to windows that are conveniently hidden from view, creating highly suggestive scenographic and lighting effects.
The light invades the surfaces, hitting them in different ways, and falls and spreads from the lantern onto the vault of the central dome, while leaving the lower vault in shadow, creating plays of light of extraordinary intensity and charm.
The church was completed in 1784, just nineteen years after the foundation stone was laid. Since then, the building has remained largely intact.
A curiosity: a collapse during the construction of the two towers (bell towers) at the sides of the church led to the suppression of one of them, as the funds available were not sufficient for the initially planned construction.
Church of St George the Martyr in Breda Cisoni
A delightful work of Central European taste by Pietro Antonio Maggi, it houses the Baroque section of the Casalasco-Viadanese museum.
The building stands on the site of an oratory dating back to the second half of the 15th century.
The new church was designed in an elegant late Baroque style. Building work began in 1747 and was completed in 1764.
The façade appears dynamic, with a double row of pilasters turned on their axis and a portal surrounded by an aedicule resting on columns.
In 1769 the valuable organ by the Ferrara organ builder Giovanni Cavalletti was installed and is still in working order. The balconies of the choir loft and the organ, dating from 1769, are interesting.
The stucco work on the vault was replaced in 1883 by an anonymous tempera decoration.
The presbytery is separated from the nave by a fine balustrade of polychrome marble, which was also used for the altar in 1775.
A recent restoration of the exterior of the building has restored the chromatic liveliness that had been erased by the wear and tear of time.
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Graces of Vigoreto
Dating back to the 16th century, it houses the museum section Perfetta letizia, or "The Poverty of St Francis".
The sanctuary was built on the site where, in 1543, the Virgin Mary appeared to some local inhabitants near a pillar near a crossroads with a fresco of the Madonna of Loreto, and began to work miracles.
Work began in 1547 with the approval of Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, guardian of the young Vespasiano. A condition was set to preserve the wall with the frescoed image in a side chapel.
The consecration of the Sanctuary took place in 1554. A few years later the Sanctuary was destroyed by a flood of the Po and immediately rebuilt thanks to the generosity of the Duke.
The façade features an architectural element composed of four strong pillars. The church, with a single nave and two raised chapels on each side with wooden gates, still shows its original forms; the simplicity of the interior reflects the sobriety of Franciscan buildings.
There are numerous paintings of excellent workmanship scattered around the sacred place.
In 1575, a convent was built next to the Sanctuary, entrusted to the Capuchin Fathers, who were to promote Marian worship and assist the devout.
In 1582, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, later a saint, stayed in the convent and wrote De Oratione here.
In 1797 the friars were driven out by the French, the convent closed and the Sanctuary stripped.
Church of S. Girolamo in Ponteterra
It is home to the museum section La camera picta dé Confratelli; in it, a very interesting and unique room for the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament, frescoed with unusual Old Testament scenes.
Until 1630, there was an oratory next to the church, where the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary resided, surrounded by a cemetery.
In 1673, work was carried out on the building, and in 1685, the façade was erected.
In 1718 a petition to Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Guastalla and Sabbioneta and Prince of Bozzolo, attests to the community's determination to enlarge the building. However, it was not until 1777 that the choir and other important works on the bell tower were completed.
The 18th century saw interventions to the sacristy, the bell tower (the clock) and the construction of the choir.
The façade is in exposed brickwork; the interior has a single nave with a barrel vault and four side chapels on each side.
In the presbytery, there is a high altar with polychrome marble and mother-of-pearl inlays from the 18th century; behind the altar is a neoclassical walnut choir with fourteen stalls.
In the last chapel on the left is a magnificent wooden crucifix dating from the mid-18th century.
Above the entrance door is a majestic Crucifixion painted in 1683.