Precious evidence of «sacred art» and popular devotion are preserved in Valle di Blenio. This itinerary is an invitation to visit the museum, and the church of San Martino in Olivone, where part of this treasured patrimony is on display; this could be followed by an excursion in the region of Lucomagno, with its wide open luminous landscapes, evocative of spiritual and aesthetic values.
The museum of Ca’ da Rivoi is a key to understanding an important aspect of the history of the valley - religious devotion. The itinerary starts here and continues with a visit to San Martino, directly opposite. The church is part of an antique rural tradition; it was first recorded in 1136, but originally dates back even earlier. Archaeological investigations conducted during the most recent restoration works (1984-1991) brought to light the original centre, dated 8thC or 9thC. The attractive bell tower is all that remains of the medieval building (12thC), and the church was altered again in Baroque times. The stucco work and frescoes we can see today were executed in the middle of 17thC. Late 15thC fragments of frescoes can still be seen on the walls.
20 kilometres along the road to Lucomagno brings you to the top of the pass. This is a beautiful area, included in the register of landscapes of national importance. It is rich with geological and natural interest (marshes and peat bogs, alpine flora and fauna). Just below the peak, at 1750 m. is the ecology centre - UomoNatura in Acquacalda. It was opened in 1985, and since then has always offered a variety of ways of spending free time studying and contemplating Alpine Nature, with respect for the environment. The centre organises seminars, celebrations, holidays and thematic excursions. It could almost be considered a continuation of the contemplative route which starts in Olivone: from antique religious fervour, (especially evident in the ex voto) to spiritual interior research associated with our present times.
Ca' da Rivöi
Unlike other itineraries the main attraction of this one is not a church, an oratory or a shrine around which votive traditions have grown, but a museum. To display an ex voto in the church where the miraculous image of the intercessor (the Madonna or other saints) is preserved, is an integral part of the act of gratitude and thanksgiving; it renders the miraculous event visible and public. This custom was also upheld in valle di Blenio, especially in the oratory of the Madonna delle Grazie in the part of Olivone known as Sommascona; a number of ex voto are on display here.
In the interest of security, and to safeguard the patrimony of the Church, and guarantee the conservation of the works of art, it was decided to gather all these treasures in one place, and open it to the public. So this time a visit will not include the actual site of the miracle, but the site of the conservation of the evidence of the miracle.
The museum, Ca’ di Rivoi (Casa di Olivone) , in the middle of the area known as Chiesa, is made up of two parts - an ancient structure, which houses evidence of daily life in times gone by, and a recently added modern part which permits the respectable exposition of our rich heritage of sacred art from churches and oratories in the upper part of the valley. The old part of the building is made of wood and masonry; 1658 is the date on the chimney pot, suggesting a period of local expansion. The house was the office of the Prior, who was responsible for the administration of the oratories and hospices that offered hospitality to wayfarers and pilgrims travelling towards the pass over Lucomagno.
The first few rooms are filled with bells that used to ring in village oratories, as well as fragments of ornamental Romanesque stucco which were discovered during restoration work on San Martino.
On the floor above, in the old part of the house, is a small room dedicated to devotional souvenirs from 17thC to 19thC. There is an outstanding example of ex voto from the church of Ghirone, dated 1670; it shows two reapers carrying their scythes and a third person on his knees under the gaze of the Madonna and souls languishing in purgatory . From the same church is a picture of a man saved from drowning in the river thanks to the intercession of the Madonna del Rosario; the disconcerting figure of a skeleton can be seen standing on the river bank . The painting of a woman in the presence of the Madonna comes from Sommascona as do the little picture (1745) showing an elegantly dressed man in a terrifying tumble , and the ex voto Anardoni 5 , (which may be an 18thC copy of a 15thC fresco in the same oratory).
There are also ex voto in silver embossed wood depicting parts of the body (hearts, arms, legs, and hands) and votive gifts (jewels and small crosses) mostly from Sommascona. Several interesting paintings hang in the following rooms, including two Annunciations. The Cusi portraits (18thC) illustrate in meticulous detail a middle class custom of the time; the little family (father and sons were probably emigrants) places itself under the protection of the Madonna, at the same time displaying the family’s coat of arms.
The new wing of the museum houses sculptures, textiles, goldwork, wall hangings and other sacred objects. There are two large and striking crucifixes (one 13thC and the other 15th/16thC) , a lovely painted wooden statue of the Madonna and Child - 14thC , and a 15thC Madonna and Child triptych between John the Baptist and another saint, maybe Mathilde, whose hand rests on the heads of the benefactors. There are several small but very expressive statuettes, in particular a 15thC God the Father. Several of the crucifixes convey a powerful feeling of tragedy. The granite crucifix is an example of early folk art and comes from the hospice «della Casaccia». The angel candlesticks are exquisitely made as are the chalices, crosses and reliquaries from 15thC to 18thC. Several wall hangings and missals complete the exhibition, as well as fragments of frescoes, including the head of an angel from 15thC taken from a demolished oratory.
(Open from Easter to the end of October Tuesday - Friday 14.00-17.00 Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00)
Church of S. Martino
antique origins (13th-14thC) and aspect which were modified in Baroque times: beautiful Romanesque bell tower (early 12thC); late 15thC stucco and frescoes; Baroque frescoes; remarkable paintings.
Centro Ecologico UomoNatura
ecology centre in Acquacalda, on the south face of Lucomagno, 5 kms from the mountain pass at 1750 m. above sea level. Also functions as a holiday centre, hotel, restaurant and campsite. All centre activities are based on the search for harmony with nature, reflection, contemplation and creativity.
Tel. +41(0)91 872 26 10
small nature park centred on several typical biotopes of the Lucomagno area. Over 200 species of plant life. Aimed at promoting the observation and contemplation of flora and fauna as well as the colours and forms of nature that change with the seasons.
the surrounding area with alpine pastures, pinewoods, ideal for hikes and picnics. Crisscrossed by a number of footpaths to learn about local flora and fauna.
Recommended period: april - oktober