Sant\'Antonio Abate

Saint Anthony the Great

The Church of Saint Anthony the Great was built around 1300 next to the convent by the Antonian Order in Vienna, a well-known religious congregation which cured lepers from the Olona region.

The locals built a vast rock portico with wide chairs, thus resembling an amphitheatre, behind the parish. A small keep, a southern outpost part of Arbostora castle, overlooked the large Romanic church until 1500, and was the chaplain’s home until 1863, when it was turned into a school. The church is an example of late Romanic architecture and is home to priceless Quattrocento paintings. Today it features four spans with groined vaults and two smaller lateral spans acting as chapels. The main nave is the best preserved and features two areas. The first, above the altar, features seven paintings: one of them depicts Saint Anthony in the desert, while the remaining narrate episodes of his life as told by Saint Jerome. Cast your eyes to the wall above the choir and you’ll be rewarded by an allegoric scene of the Saint’s life, attributed to Antonio Ripa, part of the Fossati family (Morcote arte e storia by M. and S. Caratti). The church was also a hospital, but ceased its activity at the start of the 16th century. It then became a ‘proper’ church, as witnessed by Bishop Ninguarda of Como when he visited in 1591. In 1863 the transversal wing above the arch was raised, welcoming pupils to the structure. The oratory’s roof was modified greatly during the new interior restorations in 1941 – which also included the restoration of the priceless Quattrocento paintings – under the guidance of architect Cino Chiesa. The church features more than one architectural style which flow into one another or work as standalone elements. It has now been returned to its ancient splendour thanks to the founder of the Morcote Monument Restorer Association, artist Adriano Antonini: he coordinated the restoration in 2009 by acting as a mediator between the municipal authorities and restorers. This was the first important project focussing on the monumental complex carried out thanks to the interest and support of the Association. The Church of Saint Anthony the Great was restored by architect Tita Carloni and inaugurated in June 2009. Since then, every year, the Association organises the musical event ‘Incontri Musicali’, which loosely translates as ‘Musical encounters’, in the church. There are works and monuments which are elevated and become a symbol of an entire community, becoming integral part of its history, culture, and common heritage. One of these works in Morcote is the ancient Oratory of Saint Anthony the Great. A monument of historical and cultural significance which goes beyond local or regional barriers. (Le pitture murali, Tita Carloni, architect).