Picturesque atmospheres: the little church of San Rocco
A few steps introduce you to a timeless space: voices and memories of the village silhouetted against the shimmering lake
What it is and where it is
It is a small church that stands at the edge of the ancient path that leads away from Limone, past the small port, toward Riva del Garda. You catch a glimpse of it as you look up, among the old lemon groves, against the backdrop of the rocky wall that protects the village from the tramontana winds. At first you catch a glimpse of the bell tower, which has a graceful onion-shaped copper spire. Then, up a short flight of steps, one discovers the simple gabled facade, opened by a rose window that gives light to the interior. Finally, arriving at the tiny churchyard, you turn your gaze to the lake and it is enchanting.
Why it is special
For a moment it feels like being on a Greek island: the whitewashed little church, prickly pears and an agave jutting out from above, the green of the cypress trees upstream, the dazzling surface of the water in the morning sun... Two stone benches suggest the sense of this space as a neighborhood gathering place, beyond devotion. It's a secluded corner, so much so that the first time it's easy to pass by, but then you realize that those little stairs that open between the caper plants lead up to the church.
Not to be missed
At San Rocco you go up mostly to enjoy the beautiful view, but the interior of the little church also holds a striking view: focal point, the Madonna and Child with Saints Roch and Sebastian that stands out at the altar. The fresco, dating back to 1539, is attributed to Martino da Gavardo, a Brescian painter with a decisive and realistic brush, very active precisely in the Garda district; a painting, with a clear Renaissance physiognomy, starting with the organization of the scene within an articulate architectural frame.
A bit of history
The church was built toward the end of the 16th century at the end of the plague epidemic that raged in the Duchy of Milan in 1576-77. Hence the dedication to St. Roch, invoked as a protector from contagion. The church would return to the center of attention because of the severe damage it suffered during World War I. Lake Garda, in fact, was the scene of clashes that led to the bombing of the most important centers, including, precisely, Limone: long-range cannon shots, but also bombs dropped from airships.
In the beautiful altarpiece, it is immediate to recognize the figure of St. Roch because of the attributes that are characteristic of him in sacred iconography: the uncovered thigh with the black plague, an unmistakable sign of the plague, and the pilgrim's attire, ample cloak and staff, which refers to his apostolate. Then there is the little dog that, according to legend, brought him a loaf of bread a day during his retreat to a cave to recover from illness. Most popular, St. Roch is celebrated in the heart of summer, on August 16, close to the Assumption.
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