What it is and where it is
It is a statue of colossal proportions, at least relative to the time when it was built, about 35 meters high. It stands at the crowning of a hill, also named after St. Charles, just outside the town of Arona. To reach it, one passes through a scenic road that climbs from the town to Alto Vergante. As much as the route already gives us a first taste of what we might see once we get there, there is nothing that can prepare us for the experience we are about to have.
Why it is special
The Statue or Colossus of St. Charles is an absolute must-see. In Italy, if not here in Arona, we have nothing like it, and no, it is not just because of its size. Let's look closely: the base ends in a terrace. Well, it happens to be able to climb to vantage points. Too bad that from there the climb can continue inside the statue! Yes, you got it right, the Colossus can be admired open-mouthed from the outside and visited excitedly inside.
Not to be missed
The feast day of St. Charles occurs on November 4. On that day (or the first Sunday closest to that date) the Pro San Carlo Association organizes a party every year on the square of the complex: chestnuts, sale of typical San Carlo cookies, and to finish the traditional balloon launch. The party is very popular with children!
A bit of history
The project of building a Statue in honor of the Arona saint was suggested by Oblate Father Marco Aurelio Grattarola and Cardinal Federico Borromeo, a cousin of St. Charles. The Statue was based on a design by one of the most representative masters of seventeenth-century Lombardy, Giovan Battista Crespi (known as Cerano), while the material authors were sculptors Siro Zanella and Bernardo Falconi. Its realization took 84 years of work, concluding in 1698. The complex still belongs to the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a Milanese institution founded by Cardinal Federico himself.
A huge, hollow copper statue can be visited inside. One hand along the body holds a book, the other hand moves away from the body, rising in a blessing gesture. Is this reminiscent of anything? Well yes, few know that the Colossus of St. Charles has a distant cousin. Far better known, as well as taller at 93 meters, we are talking precisely about the Statue of Liberty in New York City. The story goes that Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi stayed in Arona to study the Colossus from which Liberty is inspired.
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