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Places of worship

Ancient churches, caskets of art

The spread of Christianity

The spread of Christianity in Bardolino probably started between the fourth and the fifth century during the Saint Zeno and Vigilio episcopate (respectively the bishop of Verona and Trento).

The evangelization process was a long-lasting one and it was influenced by several factors such as the presence of soldiers and merchants converted to Christianity and the hermits living on Monte Baldo.

However the ecclesiastical authorities started their domain over the area only in the ninth or tenth century; there were different districts, each one having its own parish church, that is a church guided by an archpriest who had jurisdiction over a specific area.

San Severo altar

The parish churches held Masses and sacraments and they took place near the cemeteries; for this reason churches were built far from the built-up areas.

Together with churches, there were also chapels and oratories all along the area.
The churches of Bardolino and Calmasino became independent from their parish churches only in the fifteenth century, when they started to have their own priests and baptismal fonts.

Between 1500 and 1700 private oratories were built near or inside the noble families’ residences, as a demonstration of their privileged status or as an act of generosity towards the citizens; an example is the oratorio S. Francesco d’Assisi: a Count ordered to build it within its property in Calmasino.

San Vito Church

Nowadays there are a few traces of the oldest churches; they can be found in some ruins, such as the early middle ages plutei on the walls of Santa Maria of Cisano, the San Severo crypt or the old monastery chapel of San Zeno.

The current style of the churches is mostly Romanesque and it dates back to the eleventh and twelfth century.

Nonetheless, some churches such as San Severo rose on pre-existing buildings.

San Severo crypt
Bardolino was under the Garda parish church and Calmasino was under Lazise, while Cisano was itself a parish church (called Santa Maria).

Bardolino churches

Click on the icons to discover the position of the churches

S. Severo

San Severo was built between the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century.

However according to a king Berengario’s 893 diploma, the church had risen on the ruins of a pre-existing building, as an extension of it.

That building also had a crypt that was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The semi-annular crypt is located in correspondence with the main apse, just under the current presbytery.

San Severo exterior

For a long time the church was the centre of Bardolino spiritual life but in the fifteenth century San Nicolò became a parish church and San Severo went through a declining period, also due to several alterations and violations.

Today the church features a simple salient facade; the interior is divided into three wooden naves supported by clay and tuff columns.

The interior walls feature a series of eleventh and twelfth century frescoes representing some scenes from the Apocalypse and the True Cross findings together with other paintings visible till today due to the excellent restoration and preservation work.

The bell tower maintains its original structure while the conical pinnacle was built later.

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San Severo frescoes

In the late fourteenth century a second church was built in front of San Severo; it held the Confraternita dei Disciplinati.
It has been enlarged, restored and deconsecrated over the years; today it is property of the city and it often holds music events.

San Zeno

This church too has really ancient origins; according to reliable sources it dates back to the ninth century.

According to the tradition, king Pipino, the son of Charlemagne, ordered to build it; in 807 it was given to the San Zeno Maggiore abbey of Verona.

The little church is located on a street that today is considered as peripheral and it takes place near a residential building, thus the facade is no more visible.

The building features a Latin cross plan with a single nave lying on six red marble columns (three for each side); the columns support large round arches. The capitals feature low relief decorations with different motifs such as crosses, roses and leaves.

The exterior of the church still visible among the houses

The remains of medieval frescoes found during the restoration testify to the ancient origins of the church: two recesses of the transept showed the images of San Pietro and the Virgin Mary.

The other frescoes are less clear but they all testify to the Carolingian art.

There is no bell tower, but a bell located on a small supporting wall.
It is one of the few churches of the area that were undamaged by the 1117 earthquake.

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The altar with medieval frescoes

San Vito

The church is located in Cortelline and it is surrounded by the hills and olive trees. According to written sources, it dates back to the beginning of the fifteenth century, but also in this case the origins could be even older (ninth or tenth century), as shown by the interior headstone fragments dating back to the Early Middle Ages.

Between the twelfth and the thirteenth century the building was probably restored and a Romanesque bell tower was added. Later in the eighteenth century the church went through further restoration works, such as the hut-shaped facade remake and the apse demolition to replace it with a larger choir.

The interior has a single nave and the walls show fragments of a low-relief reliquary dating back to the Early Middle Ages.

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San Vito surrounded by vines and olive trees

San Pietro

It is an oratory located at the bottom of the promontory known as “La Rocca”; the first written records date back to the thirteenth century.

The hut-shaped facade is unusually oriented north (Romanesque churches were usually oriented west); the entrance shows remains of a painting of San Pietro by Bartolomeo Zeni, an eighteenth century painter from Bardolino. On the western side the quadrangular belfry towers over the church.

The church has a single nave and a marble altar; near the altar there are the statues of San Francesco and Santa Lucia lying on two Romanesque low-relief pillars.

Some eighteenth century works such as the apse remake and the nave extension gave the church its current structure.

Between 2010 and 2012 the restoration works showed ruins of a Romanesque necropolis. Among the findings there is a Lombard tomb of a man who was buried with its sword and all his stuffs. Over the centuries the church had thus risen on top of those Romanesque funeral ruins dating back to the Early Middle Ages.

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San Pietro interior

Chiesa di Santa Maria

This church of Cisano was already mentioned in a 915 document and it was originally named after San Giuliano (at that time it was a parish church).

It rose on top of a sacellum dating back to the Early Middle Ages whose ruins were found beside the current apse. The facade and the northern section featured fragments of old plutei with different motifs such as shoots, leaves and bunches of grapes.

When autonomous parishes established in the area thus replacing the old structure this church lost part of its value. The structure was probably damaged by the 1117 earthquake and it was rebuilt.

In 1854 the Romanesque church was largely demolished and only the apse survived together with the hut-shaped facade made of clay and cobbles

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Santa Maria facade in Cisano
The current parishes of Bardolino and Calmasino are certainly more recent.

S.S. Nicolò e Severo

The Majestic neo classical S. S. Nicolò e Severo, in the very centre of the village, takes place in the large square facing the lakefront and it was built during the nineteenth century.

It rose on top of the old Romanesque church of San Nicolò, the patron saint of sailors, dating back to the thirteenth century. In the fifteenth century it became a parish and it was named after San Severo since until then San Severo had been the most important church of Bardolino.

On the outside the building features a Palladian facade opposite a neoclassical pronaos with a tympanum lying on four colossal order columns with Corinthian capitals.

A large flight of steps lifts it off the opposite square.

The church has a Latin cross plan with a large rectangular nave and a side transept holding the altar of San Giuseppe to the left and the altar of Madonna del Rosario to the right.

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S.S. Nicolò e Severo, Piazza Matteotti, Bardolino

San Michele Arcangelo

This church is located in one of the highest and most scenic places of Calmasino.

The current church was built between 1766 and 1774. This church too rose on top of a pre-existing building, that is the old church of San Michele, whose first written records date back to 1170.

On the outside the building facade is divided in three sections: a hut-shaped central body and two narrow side wings. At the centre there is the gate. On the inside there are two rib vaults on top of the nave showing two paintings: “S. Michele che folgora i demoni” and “S. Michele che incatena gli angeli ribelli”.

In 1969 an oratory named after Sant’Anna was built beside the church.

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San Michele facade

The presence of the monks

During the Early and High Middle Ages the local ecclesiastical institutions united with the monks of San Colombano who owned numerous properties in the area.

Their settlement was also due to geographical and climate factors; the climate was indeed perfect for olive plantations and olive oil was used for liturgical rites.

Two monastic orders were founded in Bardolino: the order of San Colombano under the Bobbio Abbey (Piacenza) later converted into a priory and the church of San Zeno under the monastery of San Zeno Maggiore (Verona).

The first one was deconsecrated and sold to private citizens (Corte San Colombano), while the second one is now property of the city.

Later in the eighteenth century monasticism went through a period of recovery, tanks to the Camaldolesi hermits; they established in the area of La Rocca in Bardolino and they built the church of San Giorgio; despite some vicissitudes the monks are still there today.

The hermitage little church

Eremo di San Giorgio

The Hermitage was established by the Camaldolesi Benedectine monks coming from the monastery of Monte Rua; in 1663 they took possession of a plot of land on Monte San Giorgio donated by a nobleman from Verona.

The construction works came along the whole eighteenth century and they ended with the building of the church in 1704. After the 1810 Napoleonic decree ordering the suppression of all monasteries and hermitages of the Kingdom of Italy, the Hermitage was abandoned and farmers occupied it until 1885 when a camaldolese community settled in the area again.

Since then up to the present day the complex has belonged to the hermits, with the exception of the 1962 – 1972 decay during which it was entrusted to the diocese of Verona as the Camaldolese community could not afford the management of buildings and lands.

View of the hermitage of San Giorgio on La Rocca

The hermitage is located into a green area of scenic beauty; you can reach it by car but if you want to enjoy the beautiful landscape you should use the walking route.

The architecture of the church is quite simple: it has a single nave with no apse and four smaller chapels (dedicated to the Virgin, San Romualdo, San Benedetto and Sant’Antonio).

The monks’ regular day is devoted to silence and worship; the hermitage is not admitted to the public but there is the possibility of spending a few days there following the “ora et labora” Benedectine precept.

The porter’s lodge of the Hermitage holds a little shop where you can buy the local Olio Extravergine d’Oliva from the centuries-old olive trees or the honey produced by the monks.

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Vista dall'Eremo di San Giorgio

The current community of the hermitage belongs to the Camaldolese Congregation of the order of San Benedetto, whose mother house is located in Camaldoli (Arezzo); it was founded between 1012 and 1024 by San Romualdo of Ravenna.