Oratory of Our Lady of Milk in Gionzana
The Bible hidden in the rice fields
What it is and where it is
A white spot, isolated sometimes in the middle of fields, sometimes in the middle of water. We are in the province of Novara, a land of rice fields that, when flooded, turn the countryside into a surprising mirror in the middle of the plain. A changing land, a land of farmers and pilgrims. That white dot, looking more carefully, shows a simple shell, in perfect harmony with the landscape, and a noble heart, full of beauty and with a story to tell. Just like the people here. This is the Oratory of Our Lady of Milk in Gionzana.
Why it is special
The Novara countryside, both the lowlands and the hilly area, is affected by the presence of these jewels of sacred art, simple churches, small oratories that were often built as votive offerings or to give shelter to pilgrims passing through these lands. The frescoes often found inside them tell the stories of the saints, Jesus or the Virgin to those who could not access the Scriptures. A veritable biblia pauperum by which the immediacy of the image was entrusted with the teaching of religion.
Not to be missed
When you enter the small oratory, you move from the everyday, earthly dimension to a purely spiritual one. The light that enters through a few small openings is dim, barely enough to admire the frescoes that decorate the interior walls. They were created by the workshop of the Cagnola and De Bosis, masters of art from Novarese in the 15th century, and envelop the visitor with their stories: they depict saints, scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin and Child.
A bit of history
The oratory has recently undergone extensive restoration work, involving both the interior and exterior. The inauguration took place in September 2011 in the presence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who officiated mass and blessed the new altar.
The original fresco of Our Lady of Milk was detached from the wall in the early 1900s and placed above the altar; in the 1960s it was relocated to its original position but later stolen and never recovered. A photographic reproduction of it is visible today in its place.
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