The Church of Saint Mary


The church of Saint Mary, built in its present form at the end of the fifteenth century, is famous for its architectural quality and its formal and iconographic wealth of the frescoes that you find inside it (among others, in the presbytery, the paintings of Gerolamo Romanino).
Even the outside, however, has themes of great interest: such as, the main façade for its splendid portal and the rose window above; the lateral front for more detailed and complex reasons.
In fact, here you can find subsequent elements and interventions that witness not only the changes of the use of the church but also the devotion and the religiousness of residents of Bienno.
The lateral front is divided into three sections, separated by square pilasters, which correspond to the three internal bays.
Each sector contains a large trilobated window in late Gothic style: each of them has a slightly different shape, size and location, in adaptation to specific functional requirements.
The window of the section on the right is not in line so as not to interfere with the internal loggia, which was originally reached through the door, which is now walled up, visible next to the window itself.
The window of the section on the left has also been moved slightly, in order to insert the opening that leads to the bell tower.
The central window, larger than the others and perfectly centred, is at last the result of an enlargement, as it can be deduced by observing its overlapping with frescoes. The windows have refined manufacture and shapes which are unconnected to the local constructive tradition that shows the cultured and open taste of purchasers of Bienno.
The central compartment has a great symbolic and historical density, the presence of architectural elements, carved and painted-combined and superimposed. The central section has a great symbolic and historical density, for the presence of architectural, carved and painted elements, which are combined and overlapping.
The actual gate is put before the original portal, which has been replaced and walled up.
It has an abutment of simple overlapping blocks, while the lintel and the lunette have refined shapes and decorations, which are consistent with the windows.
The abutment is probably related to the entrance of an ancient oratory integrated in the church. Just on the occasion of its re-conversion to the lateral entrance of the new building, it was renovated by replacing its higher part. Its decentralized position therefore may depend by conservation of a pre-existence.
A few decades later, however, it was replaced by its neighbouring architraved portal, placed perfectly in line and with almost Renaissance shapes; furthermore, it was built when the window above was enlarged. On the beam of the original gate is engraved the monogram of Saint Bernard.
Inside the trilobated lunette is a Christ crowned with thorns and accompanied by two angels.
Around the window there are some frescoes: they are all interrupted by the window itself, which, as already pointed out, belongs therefore to a more recent epoch.
A painted fascia deteriorated a lot continues in the next sector; there you can glimpse horses and horsemen and, on the other side of the square pilaster, unrecognizable persons, who are associated with long cartouche with Gothic characters. At the bottom, you can find an inscription of Antonio Abate dated 1546, which, with the lower frame, now missing, could partially overlap with the previous fresco.
The Saint is depicted with the traditional iconographic attributes: the long beard, the fire and the doorbell.
He was venerated a lot in the Valle: he protected pets, was invoked against fires, cured skin diseases and the burns.
He also defended the workers, for example, people who worked like forgers and there were a lot of them in Bienno.