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To showcase the children’s drawings for our 50th birthday, we chose a distinctive location right in the heart of our town, Grignasco, in the province of Novara.
We chose a magical place, steeped in beauty, history, the experiences of the past: the deconsecrated church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a little treasure of the people of Grignasco.
Below are a few words on its history, its hallmark features and beauty, described in a Tourist Guide written by the local Pro Loco tourist association of Grignasco in 1993 and published by Interlinea Edizioni.
Built within the mediaeval core of the town, since the end of the 15th century, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie came under the patronage of the Durio family, but for centuries it was used by the community as a parish church, and is known locally as the gésa vègia, or old church.
For centuries, it was the centre of civic life in Grignasco, with the square in front of it hosting the public assemblies of the Council and the heads of the local families.
The splendid semi-circular arch, with shingle pebbles and hanging arches, suggests that the origins of the church date back to the end of the 11th century.
It later underwent renovation work, during the 15th and 16th centuries, and was expanded in the mid-1600s, with the addition of the part on the left of the façade. We know that at least the wooden furnishings added at this time were worked on by Bartolomeo Tiberino from Arona.
Following the consecration of the new parish church of Vittone (1783), Santa Maria delle Grazie was gradually abandoned. And at the end of the 18th century, it was divided into two parts: one belonging to the local council and another to the Durio family, who donated their part to the council in 1989.
Inside the church are two important cycles of frescoes. The earlier of the two dates to around 1489 and has been attributed to the workshop of Tommaso Cagnola: what remains of this cycle is the decoration of the apse, more or less intact, featuring the apostles, Christ Pantocrator and the symbols of the Evangelists, while other well-preserved images can be noted coming through along the walls from beneath the decorative layer painted over the cycle later.
A little more complete is the 16th-century fresco by the painter from Novara Angelo De Canta, dated 1543: in addition to the beauty and artistic significance of the images, this cycle is of particular importance as a testament to the work of the artist, of which little remains in the Novara area.
The decoration covers all the remaining walls of the early nave – the left wall was demolished when the church was extended in the 17th century – and the surface is painted with architectural features such as arches, niches and windows that bring a sense of dynamism to the plain walls and mark off the scenes and the figures. The scenes include a splendid Crucifixion on the triumphal arch, and in order of appearance, along the right wall, a Pietà with the Saint Anthony The Great and Saint Gratian, Saint Martin and the Poor Man, below the figures of Saint Eusebius and Saint Lucy, the Adoration of the Magi, near the bell tower Saint Francis, Saint Bernardino, Saint Roch and Saint Sebastian, and on the opposite wall, the Baptism of Christ.