Miglieglia is a picturesque little village in the rural part of upper Malcantone, set in an area studded with chestnut woods. As well as Santo Stefano al Colle, it’s worth paying a visit to the Parish church (also dedicated to Santo Stefano) and the legendary ‘Castello di Miglieglia’. The former was built in 1634, and transformed in Baroque style in the second half of the 18thC; all that remains of the castle - a few ruins - lies below the village of Miglieglia along the Sentiero delle Meraviglie. The castle used to rise vertically above a moraine in a position commanding the central part of the river Magliasina. The origin of the castle is lost in the mists of time; the date of construction has never been established, nor the reason for the imposing castle’s existence; the most convincing theory is that it was part of a defence line stretching along the Valley of Ponte Tresa as far as Arosio. The area presents much evidence of a rural past packed with extraordinary events; these can be explored along the thematic paths. One of the best known paths is the Sentiero delle Meraviglie, approachable from either Novaggio or Aranno. This path is an excursion through ancient treasures which belonged to our great grandparents: a mill, a furnace, a hammer, a mine, castle ruins, dry stone walling and woods near the river bed.
After visiting the church, take a hike up to Monte Lema (1624 m. above sea level) and enjoy the panoramic view; it takes 2 and a half hours (only ten minutes if you decide to take the cable car).
On top there is a hostel/restaurant, an astronomy observatory, a nature reserve, and a formidable launching spot for Para jumping. From up here the eye reaches as far as the horizon over the Grison and Bernese Alps, the Vallais peaks as far as Pianura Padana and Milan. Miglieglia and Monte Lema are also starting points for a well known walk along an easy path over the mountain crest leading to Monte Tamaro.
Santa Stefano al Colle
The ancient church of Santo Stefano lies just above the built-up area overlooking the valley. The old parish church is not to be confused with the other church dedicated to the same saint, also in Miglieglia, in the centre of the village.
The bell tower and choir of this church are Romanesque ; the nave was renewed during the Gothic period. The quadrangular choir is raised above the level of the nave and covered by a round cross vault. Above the door on the west face is a door with a plain arch surmounted by a cross, two small round arched windows, and a circular opening .
Externally the choir is decorated with corner pilasters, supported by plain consoles. The same pattern is repeated in the soaring bell tower: paired apertures with round arches on the upper two floors supported by two simple half-columns without bases or capitals. Inside, note the frescoes in the choir (1511) . In the eastern dome of the cross-vault is the enthroned figure of the Saviour on a red background inside a mandorla, held up by Saint Marco, flanked by an angel, in the act of benediction; the book of life lies open in front of him. Opposite, saints Ambrogio and Agostino are seated at a writing desk, surmounted by an architectural structure in the form of a chimneypot; in the north/south domes are saints Gerolamo and Luca (with a little angel), then saints Giovanni and Gregorio. The lower segments are filled with trumpet blowing angels. The Crucifixion can be seen to the east, with Christ between the two thieves. To the left Saint Stefano, and to the right Saint Antonio abbot; Jerusalem can be seen in the background. The shield shaped side arches enclose a picture of the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi. The twelve apostles are lined up on both sides below and on the pillars supporting the arch over the choir . The lower choir arch is decorated with medallions depicting the prophets, as is the transverse eastern arch over the nave. At the summit of the arch is a representation of the Lamb of God. On the second arch of the nave - Saint Caterina (painted in 1479) on the right, and the faded figure of an old saint to the left.
The church was partially restored in 1970. To this day the church continues the ancient devotional tradition of imploring the grace and blessings of the apostles. «Andà a apostolà a Mioia» is an expression in dialect which refers to a particular form of popular devotion still alive today. This is an unusual religious manifestation worthy of attention; within living memory the church in Ticino used to practise a fertility rite, of which no written record survives, so we have no details to tie the ritual to a particular historical period. This singular form of devotion concerned pregnant women who had reason to believe that the life of their unborn child was in danger; the young woman in question would go to the church, and worship at the frescoes of the twelve apostles; she would receive 12 candles, and light one for each apostle. In the past these candles were stuck straight on the wall with a few drops of wax, traces of which can still be seen on the walls today. Afterwards a mass was celebrated, followed by the recital of the Litany of the saints. In the meantime the candles would sputter, and burn out one by one. The future mother and her closest relations would stay and accompany the slow consummation of the candles with prayers. The name of the apostle whose candle was the last to burn out would be given to the baby as soon as it was born, and the child would then be entrusted to the protection of that saint. This ritual was widespread until 1950 and was probably carried out in San Vigilio at Rovio, at S. Remigio at Corzoneso, and S. Bartolomeo at Croglio, as well. However it would appear that even today young women come to Miglieglia to pray for the blessing of pregnancy, and a safe delivery.
Parish church of Miglieglia
also dedicated to S. Stefano, built in 1634, transformed in Baroque style during the second half of 18thC.
Ruins of the Castle
below the village on the Sentiero delle Meraviglie. It is thought to have been part of a defence line along the whole valley from Ponte Tresa to Arosio.
«Sentiero delle Meraviglie»
starting from Novagigo or Aranno. Along the path an antique mill, furnaces, «maglio di Aranno» (a hydraulic smithy for forging iron, restored in 1992 and now open to the public; it is one of the last to survive in Canton Ticino), mines, dry stone walls, and the gulley woods.
In the vicinity:
Ethnographic museum of Curio: permanent exhibition about the activity of the population of Malcantone towards the middle of 19thC - hunting, fishing, agriculture and crafts, herding, winegrowing, customs and traditions.
Open April - October, Thursday and Sunday 14.00- 17.00
Monte Lema (1624 m. above sea level)
Panoramic point reachable by foot (2h30’) or cablecar (10 mins).
Variante A: Miglieglia - Monte Lema - Miglieglia (by cableway)(- 4.5 km / -880 hm)
Recommended period: april - october