Oratory of Saint John the Baptist
Situated next to the Town Hall, the Oratory of Saint John the Baptist is one of the most interesting Baroque buildings on the lakeside from an architectural point of view, due to the refinement and sophistication of its shape. The present church was built at the end of the 1600s as a private oratory of the Tornielli palace, one of the projects of architect Giovanni Antonio Martelli, a canonical clergyman from the Basilica of Saint Julius in Siena, who, during the same period, also created the elegant tomb of Saint Julius.
The central plan of Saint John’s oratory takes advantage of short wings to liven up the statuesque articulation of the entire structure. The longitudinal axis is exaggerated, pulling together two different spaces and towered over by a lowered dome such that the larger one forms a sort of nave and the smaller a rectangular presbytery. The large internal area visibly grows towards the top: four arches rest upon the arms of the cross, upon which sits the dome, illuminated by the central lantern. The other pilasters have Corinthian capitals that, with their grand layout, emphasize the vertical nature of the space. The plaster cornices that run along the eaves are the small masterpieces worth careful observation.
When the architect Martelli designed the church, he also thought about its integration into the urban fabric. In the nineteenth century the church did not overlook an airy town square like it does today, but rather just a simple road that led directly to the old town square, a site which exists still today a few dozen meters away; Martelli wanted the façade to be completely visible from this beating heart of the village. The first step was to not align with the town’s street and the adjoining Tornielli palace, but to slightly tilt the axis towards the street such that a corner of the façade overwhelmed the roadway. This design resulted in just a glimpse of the façade being visible from the ancient town square. The structure has a concave surface that plays on both empty and full space, in the elegant language of Baroque architecture. Each of the partitions and decorative elements is very statuesque; note the pronounced cornice of the molding and the deep niche into which the portal is inserted. The two pilasters are innovative, dug full of niches; almost “reversed” columns.
Another curious tidbit: the bell hung high in the church has an unusual, trapezoidal section that allows those who enter Ameno from the street going towards Miasino to glimpse three sides instead of the usual two. Martelli actually planned for another two façades, one on the street (already described), and another on the adjoining side, along the axis with the altar. This last façade would have provided access to the inside of the oratory. Hanging on the walls, you can see various similarly-sized paintings that tell of events in Saint John the Baptist’s life, painted by Giovanni Antonio De Groot (1664-1712), a complex and original painter, and two works of art by Giuseppe Zanatta and Tarquinio Grassi. The large painting that dominates the right wall is truly interesting, especially from a historical perspective, as it illustrates a meeting of the Council of Trent, which was attended by a priest from Amena, Nestor Ferrini, who follows the Bishop of Novara, in memory of whom the painting was created. It was donated in 1680 by some people from Ameno who were living in Trent. Only four such painting exist, each of them nearly identical: two are in Trent and one in Mantova.
Open every day from 8:30 A.M. – 5:30 P.M.
Parking available adjacent to the Palazzo Tornielli courtyard.