San Nicola in Assenza San Pietro in Campo Sant'Antonio in Biaza San Zeno in Castelletto
St. Nicholas church in Assenza was first built probably in the 11th or early 12th century in honour of the holy bishop of Mira, protector of seafarers. The name of the church first appears in a document issued by Pope Adrian IV in 1159 containing the list of chapels belonging to district head church (pieve) of Malcesine. The shape of original chapel must have been quite different from what we see today. On the basis of very limited historical evidence we can infer that it must have been similar to many other Romanesque chapels built around the lake area, whit a hut-like façade, a single nave and a semicircular apse.
The chapel was first enlarged towards the east and in the course of the 15th century also west and southward in line with the bell tower. In more recent times the façade was given the present appearance with a door and a window in neo-Gothic style.
Two 14th century Gothic arches and a single nave, which narrows towards the bell tower and ends into a rectangular choir area with the main altar at the center, characterize the interior. The paintings on the 15th century altarpiece include a Madonna with child, St. Nicholas and St. Anthony the Abbot, the farmers’ patron.
At the southern wall there is a 17th century altar dedicated to St. Francis. The painting on its altarpiece shows St. Francis receiving the Stigmata (the Lord’s wounds). In the northern wall there is a small Romanesque style door which once led to the adjacent small cemetery.
The nave’s ceiling in rein forced with open trusses while a double ribbed vault with Gothic sails protects the choir area. The church inner walls are decorated with late 12th century frescoes (notice the fragment depicting The last Supper).
One of the frescoes, however, was completed in 1322 as shown by the date written next to St. Michael’s image on the northern wall.
On the same northern wall, from west to east, we find 13th century frescoes depicting: The Face of Our Lady of Mercy; St. Michael and St. John the Evangelist; St. martin of Tours and the beggar; Saints Steven, Zeno and Bartholomew; St. Zeno, St. Anne, the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus, the Crucifixion of Our Lord, Sts. Benigno, Nicholas, Caro, Anthony, the Abbot and James the Elder.
Restoration work on the southern wall, which was completed in 1998, returned to life the beauty of more frescoes. Going from east to west we see the Archangels Michael and Gabriel with St. Bartholomew, and St. Lucy.
Lastly, on the half crest of the second arch, there is a late 14th or early 15th century panel with paintings of the Virgin Mary on a throne with the Child Jesus, flanked by St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Lawrence.
The existence of Campo, as a village, dates back to 1023, but there is no mention in the records about St. Peter's church. The Austrian archaeologist, Martin Bitschnau, recently stated that on the basis of his analysis of the construction techniques, the building could probably be dated even before the 12th century. This theory, however, is quite controversial. Other experts believe the church construction dates from the 14th century, since this is the time-frame autographed by the master painter Giorgio da Riva himself.
The church and adjoining cemetery are mentioned in the wills of Engelerio son of the deceased Guglielmo in 1422, Giovanni son of the deceased Antonio in 1424, Zeno from Boccino in 1446 and many others.
The church of Campo was built to meet the spiritual needs of the people, and suffered the same destiny when population's numbers began to decrease. The church façade we see today was completely renovated during the 1700s. It retains, however, the original hut-like Romanesque structure facing west. This feature together with the basin-like shape of the apse, are typical of the Romanesque style, which lasted virtually unchanged until the 1300s. The interior resumes the style already defined by the exterior, namely, a single nave surmounted by a triumphal arch leading to a bare altar and the apse. This essential structure, however, is enriched by a profusion of paintings unfolding from the arch above and the apse unto the sidewalls.
On the northern wall in a west to east direction we find: Christ on the Cross flanked by the Virgin Mary, John the Apostle, Sts. Bartholomew and Zeno; The Virgin Mary sitting on a throne, suckling the Infant Jesus and surrounded by Sts. Bartholomew, Lucy, John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria; The persons who commissioned the work, Bartolomeo and Ingelterio, kneeling in prayer.
On the half crests and the arch above the apse we see: St. James the Elder; The Annunciation of Our Lady intersected by the arch's vertex; A wounded Christ leaning out of a sarcophagus; St. Anthony the Abbot. On the basin of the apse we notice: A Christ the All Powerful between the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and the symbols of the four Evangelists.
Along the southern wall in an east to west direction we find: A bishop and a Madonna with the Child Jesus; A bishop, St. Peter sitting on his Chair, Saints Dorothy and Catherine of Alexandria; Our Lady of Mercy with Saints Anthony the Abbot, Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdalene; St. Anthony the Abbot. On a section of the southern wall of the apse's basin there is an inscription indicating that the frescoes were completed in 1358 by master painter Giorgio da Riva, respectively, son and brother of the well-known Federico and Giacomo.
Oral tradition places the construction of the church in early medieval times, it was built to serve the spiritual needs of the people living around the military outpost, the little castle (properly known as castelet to the present times). There are, however, no historical data regarding the origin of the Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot of Biasa. The fresco of Saint Christopher on the exterior dates back either to the second half of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. The church is mentioned in the will of certain Giovanni, son of the deceased Benedetto from Brenzone, written on 9th April 1421.
The spiritual and material functions of the church and cemetery on behalf of priest and people, are stated in a official document dated 1st October 1456. In this, the bishop of Verona, Ermolao Barbaro, confers upon the priest Stefano de Zebetus the rector ship of the parish church of Brenzone, and declares that the chapel of Biasa depends on the parish church.
The famous Brenzoni family later became the patron and benefactor of the chapel end in the 1500s exercised the right to nominate a candidate for the chaplaincy and the duty to care for the chaplain’s material needs. Paolo Brenzoni, son of the deceased Delaio, had a burial monument built inside the church, where by his will dated 8th October 1503, renewed on 27th September 1505, disposes that he and his wife Laurenzia, should be buried.
The building, now, is essentially the same as the original, and was built according to the rules of Romanesque architecture: the façade is facing west in spite of its location on top of a hill. The only way to entrance of the church, therefore, is form the southern side, where the above-mentioned fresco of St. Christopher is located. The bell tower, of the same period, rises on the village side, with four relatively large openings at the top giving light to the belfry.
The interior is constituted by a short nave leading to a semicircular apse and to the only altar, of recent construction, adorned with an early 18th century altar-piece depicting Saint Anthony the Abbot praying to the Virgin Mary. On the northern wall there are some large fragments of the frescoes commissioned by Paolo Brenzoni towards the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. His name and that of his wife Laurenzia are still visible. These are the only surviving decorations of the lost burial monument. Also visible are the Coat of Arms of the Brenzoni family and A group of devotees at the feet of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.
This church is probably very ancient, but the structure we now admire shows unmistakable Romanesque features and dates back to the 11th - 12th and 13th century. As in the case of Saint Nicholas in Assenza, the first written evidence can be found in the papal bull of 1159. We find also references in the final wills of some well-off local residents like Domenico son of the deceased Ognibene in 1423, Antonio son of the deceased Moreto in 1427 and others.
This was the main church for the entire Brenzone territory until the Church of Saint John the Baptist replaced it as an autonomous parish at the beginning of the 1400s. St. Zeno was then turned into a simple prayer chapel. The present building is the result of three different construction phases.
The construction of the northern and eastern walls belongs to the first phase. The second phase took place during the 12th century. The apses, the two naves, and the southern wall were all completed during this time. This wall was later rebuilt after the enlargement of the church. The third phase occurred early in the 13th century and saw the erection of the bell tower and the reconstruction of the façade. This is the reason why the façade appears to have a single slope, but in reality the massive bell tower covers the second slope, the side aisle's falling roof. The main entrance is located on the central axis of the building and is made of pink marble jambs and architrave engraved with an encircled Greek cross.
A suspended vestibule and a tympanum with the image of Christ giving a blessing surmount the door; on the southern side one can see the imposing figure of Saint Christopher carrying the Child Jesus. Both paintings are from the same period as the frescoes on the walls of the interior.
On the eastern side we see the irregular and asymmetrical constructions of three apses. On the central apse there is one, original, splayed and arched window. On the northern wall, where the bell tower is located, there is evidence of a walled entrance, which once gave access to the tower. Lastly, the interior of the church is divided into two unequal naves by six small arches, fully curved, supported by alternating pillars. The Corinthian style capitals of the first column near the entrance and the third are Roman in origin, and were probably found in the area and recycled, like the slabs of pink marble.
These are perhaps remains of mortars once used as internal jambs of the main entrance. On the walls of the side aisle there are some late Romanesque frescoes with obvious Byzantine influences: The Angel and Zechariah; The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist; The Preaching of John the Baptist; The Beheading of John the Baptist. On the northern wall of the main nave we see: Cain and Abel, and The Fish. A fresco depicting The Apostles is barely visible along the basin of the main apse.