The existence of the church in ancient times was proved by the archaeological excavation works carried out back in 2000 during its refurbishment.
Rests of tombs, perimeter walls of what could have been used as workshops, a street and what is left of an ancient church can now be seen underneath the presbytery. On the next side of the altar, you can go down a hatch and observe the most ancient ruins, dating back up to the V-VI Century A.D., and a late-medieval structure as well.

Documenting the reasons why this church was built in the first place is not an easy task. We know that S. Maria Confraternity used to administrate it over the time. In XVIII Century, the building was also used as a parish during the building of the current S. Martino Church.
Due to Napoleon’s age suppressions, it ran the risk of becoming a state property: however, the archpriest Ronchetti – after a harsh legal battle – managed to demonstrate that the church formed part of the parish.

During World War I it was used by the wounded soldiers.
Afterwards it underwent years of abandon, even if it was sometimes open for special celebrations or First Communions. 
The church was recently renovated and brought back to the old glory, thus rescuing a rich and significant historical heritage.

The construction works

The current church is the result of several construction stages, one of which dating back to XIII century: on the main door, you can read the year 1258 (or 1458 according to the last investigations).
A written document mentions its presence in 1396, while the façade shows the inscription of “June 25th, 1465”. This is the date of the end of the works, which started in 1456. 
The simple and plastered façade features the typical XV century style, with a central rose window and two large side windows, a pointed arch portal in white stone, the above-mentioned date and St. Bernardino’s monogram.
On the right, you can see some irreparably damaged frescoes. Above them, a decoration running along the roof’s slopes.
All along the sides, it is possible to spot the different building materials: herringbone cobblestones (borlanti), big squared stones on the corners. The beautiful apse is covered by a tiled roof, supported by small brick pillars.
The side doors and the tiny closed windows recall the different stages of the church’s construction. 

The interiors

Santa Maria’s is a single-nave church. Four pointed arches divide it into five aisles; the presbytery is located in the last one.
The last renovation works particularly focused on the frescoes covering the side walls and the apse: moreover, further paintings have been found on the arched niche. 
They were heavily hammered in XVII Century, in order to adhere the plaster covering them to try to tackle the plague epidemic. The paintings here are mostly votive, realized by the so-called “Nembro school”: the master here was very interest in Gothic patterns, while his pupil preferred whimsical architectural shapes. 
They were minor artists, who worked outside the town’s great renovation context, but they were able to express the interests and the taste of Bergamo’s valleys.
They worked in Mornico al Serio as well. Moreover, several artists belonging to Bergamo School, Clusone School and Marinoni school worked on the church, along with Giacomo Borlone and Maffiolo da Cazzano (over the second half of the XV Century and the early XVI Century).

Inside the church, on the left, right after the picture of a beast of burden (possibly an ex-voto) you can find a frescoed polyptych representing the eremites Saints Paolo, Onofrio (?), Giovanni Battista and Gerolamo.
The middle niche used to host a statue representing St. Antonio Abate. The ancient altar dedicated to the Saint was originally located here.
This work is attributed to the Marinonis, a family of artists from Desenzano d’Albino who also worked in other churches of Nembro, such as S. Sebastiano and S. Nicola.
These particular works were carried out by Antonio (from1493 to 1547), along with his brother Bernardino (from 1490 to 1533), the sons of Giovanni (from 1457 to 1512).
Some older figures can be seen under that, such as several Madonnas, a very sweet Virgin holding her Child and a blossoming twig (this very same image can be also seen in S. Sebastiano Church, more ancient), Vincenzo, and other paintings.

You can also admire a very refined St. Rocco made by Giacomo Borlone’s workshop. This very same artist (1460 to 1487) – who also painted the Disciplini’s Oratory in Clusone) painted the following fresco: a Visitation, where female figures are painted in a fresher and more secular style.

Above the side door there is a strange fragment representing the Trinity in the Annunciation: God the Father, surrounded by a cloud with angels, seems to be sending a baby Jesus and a dove (the Holy Ghost) towards Mary.
Other fragments of a fresco portraying the Holy Saints Peter and Paul can be spotted, along with a woman on her house’s threshold as she turns to observe what is happening. Afterwards, you can also admire another Visitation ascribed to Giovanni Marinoni’s workshop, partially damaged by the presence of what is left of the pipe organ, and a Christ in Pity by Maffiolo da Cazzano (1477 to 1514).

The presbytery features two side altars: as they were inserted later, they partially ruined the frescoes. These frescoes are extremely ancient and can be ascribed to Nembro School, such as the two Virgins painted on the first stretch of the right wall.
The Virgin painted on the lower order, with no throne, wears a white mantle decorated with flowers. In the apse, you can see the Assumption of Mary among Angels, Apostoles and Sybillas, painted on the arcosolium by the Marinonis at the end of the fourth decade of XVI Century, along with Ambrogio – the last artist of this art school. The lower wall is very peculiar, representing a precious upholstery. 
The right wall features several frescoes dating back to the period between 1466 and 1472: a triptych depicting St John the Evangelist with wings (a very rare iconography), a Nativity scene (partially erased by the old pulpit) and St. Stefano.
A St. Sebastian and devotee, a naïve and light-coloured image, resembles the Holy Virgin of the Milk and Saint Sebastian, where the influence of Murano-based painters (like Vivarini) is very clear. On the architectures and the Renaissance decoration framing the throne, there is a series of Holy Virgins of the Milk, along with the very interesting Madonna and child and St. Rocco and two devotees, dating back to the year 1490. 
After a few years, a beautiful corbels structure with “eyes” was overlaid: Eternal Father, Holy Saints and later the Procession of Our Lady of Loreto.
These are the Saints located all around the Holy Home: Caterina, Cristoforo, Martino (?), Lucia, sharply dressed with beautiful garments.
Moreover, there is also a peculiar painting representing the Virgin rescuing a ship from sinking.  

Lastly, a small and naïve votive image of the Crucifixion: the Virgin, Jesus and a Saint Bishop, attributed to Marinoni’s workshop (September 28th, 1521). 

The pillar’s piers show numerous representations of Madonna with Child and Our Virgin of the Milk, while the lower side features several Saints, including Saint Bernardino, St. Apollonia and Saint Antonio Abate.

The altarpiece in the apse (Mary with Child and Saints, 1820) is ascribed to Paolo Zimengoli, a painter from Verona. There are also several other paintings along the walls. St. Angelo Carmelitano (unknown author, XVII Century) is a copy of Cavagna’s art piece. Moreover, you can also admire a XVII Century altarpiece with St Carlo Borromeo and Saints (unknown author) and an Adoration of the Shepherds (unknown author).

Reference stop:
Nembro Centro

Distance: 0,5 KM
Extimated time:
  • 3 min.
  • 6 min.
How to reach Chiesa di Santa Maria

From the tram stop, go towards Piazza Umberto I. Church of Santa Maria is located in via Mazzini, in the old town.

Points of Interest