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The Church of San Michele in Voltorre and bell tower

  • Chiesa di San Michele a Voltorre - Gavirate
The ancient church of San Michele di Voltorre represents, together with the cloister of the monastery to which he belonged, one of the most prestigious medieval monuments around the Varese area. 
Of Romanesque origin dates back to the early 1100s, is today an apsidal building a single hall. Its position is not aligned with the buildings of the monastery and not parallel to the north side of the cloister, as it was in use in Roman times when the Benedictine monasteries were built according to the rules laid down by St. Benedict and based on the scheme adopted in the monastery of Cluny in France, appears to be rather unusual. In all likelihood, in fact, the church, which is certainly more ancient origins as being excavated were found the foundations of earlier religious buildings, and the bell tower were built prior of the monastery has proof of this, it is possible observe how the monastic building will include taking the apse inglobandone the structure and the roof. 
Externally it is possible to observe how the masonry is composed of regular blocks of stone that also include materials such as bare fragment of entablature Roman observable in the northeast corner of the façade. The apse, partly incorporated into the cloister, is decorated with hanging arches in brick with lunettes and spandrels stone surmounted by a frieze consisting of bricks arranged in a saw-tooth Externally you can see the original windows that gave light to the altar then buffered and covered with frescoes which have been preserved sinopia a fifteenth-century depicting the Madonna and Child and probably some saints, in the part that faces the cloister. On the first floor of the monastery, it is also possible to observe the windows closed during the construction of the monastic building, which gave light to the nave and a drain of rainwater into the ancient stone roof. 
Inside, the church has undergone numerous works over the years. 
In the apse, under the altar of the seventeenth century, the remains of a fresco depicting the Holy Archangel perhaps century to whom the church is dedicated. 
In the seventeenth century the area in front of the church, which overlooks the monastery, was converted into a garden "delight" by Raffaele Appiani Lateran canon, in charge of managing the property of the monastery voltorrese belonging to his congregation. At this time dates the sundial on the south side of the church and the fresco decoration, of which little remains if we exclude the plaque above the door of the cloister of the monastery wall. 
In the same period was probably made ​​a part of the fresco decoration inside, as the altarpiece with the Pietà above the altar and still on site. 
In late 600 and early 700 the roof, probably plan originally was raised to allow the construction of a recessed dome flanked by two times while on the north side was built a chapel with frescoes of which has a fresco depicting the Magi. They were then opened larger windows and the facade was modified. The rooms on the ground floor of the monastery adjacent to the church were then converted into the sacristy. 
Also in this period were carried out inside the elegant decorations in stucco fresco: it tends to dilate illusionistic space thanks to a game of monochrome frescoes and reliefs of purely eighteenth-century taste. To note the stucco medallion depicting a canon Lateran placed above the entrance arch to the small side chapel. On the sides of the altar were then painted two frescoes depicting saints particularly invoked against diseases of humans and animals, reflecting the farming traditions of the area: Saint Anthony with pig and fire with the devil and St. Bernard defeated. The small stand high on the south side, adorned with stucco decorations, allowed the canons of the church from their apartments look out of the monastery and was called by an illusory creation painted on the opposite side. 
Always keep it in the church tombstone under which were buried in the Lateran canons dated 1733. 
At the beginning of 1100, in conjunction with the building of the present church was erected also the bell tower which, due to its massive appearance and devoid of decorations and the presence of some loopholes, has long been believed earlier, perhaps an old Roman tower used for military purposes. In fact, the excavations revealed that it was built on the foundations of earlier religious buildings and this, together with the similarity in muraturi, allowed his definitive dating. Interestingly, the small face carved in relief, now unfortunately much damaged, present and visible on the south side of the cloister at the level of the belfry: For a long time it was considered that the term derived from Voltes Voltorre Turris, the Face of the Tower, just to the presence of this unusual and solitary sculpture. In fact Voltorre the name seems to derive from Latin and means "place of the vulture" and then bad luck. 
The tower was then raised between 1937 and 1940. Till the beginning of the twentieth century here was preserved one of the oldest bells in Europe, dating back to 1200 and performed by "Magister Blasinus Stemalius Lugano," as reported on the incision that adorned on the edge, a teacher from the smelter near Canton Ticino.
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