27 July 2016

A "Coro Ligneo" in Paradise

"There are two sets of seats, the higher set of 19 stalls with backing, and the lower set in the form of a bench. They are local workmanship of 1750. They served for the recitation of the canonical hours; in fact, until 1797 there were at Gardone ten chaplains who, together with the Archpriest, recited daily the canonical hours, receiving a share of the funds which were confiscated by the Provisional Government of Brescia in 1797. All these chaplains were at the service of the various schools and confraternities: of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Holy Rosary ... and were dedicated to the instruction of the children in reading and writing".

So says the guide book of the Church of S Nicolas in the exquisite village of Gardone Riviera, where some lucky souls, including this one, go (Deo volente) each summer for the Roman Forum. The choir stalls thus described are to the East of the High Altar. From Gardone, you can get ferries round Lake Garda, visiting the the other townships and villages; these include Salo, centre of ("Little Gerrrls, this is Signor Mussolini. He is called Il Duuuce") the 'Italian Social Republic' where Mussolini spent the last months of the War (and of his life). And the Sirmio of Catullus, from which he sailed his yacht ... and Venetian strongholds in this part of the dominions of the Most Serene Republic, stretching as far North as Malcesine where the Lake ends in the Alps. There can surely be no better centre, no lovelier, no more hospitable, for exploring this fascinating area than the Locanda agli Angeli in Gardone Riviera.

Quite a number of the churches around Lake Garda have the same arrangement as Gardone Church; indeed, quite a lot of them were built or rebuilt around the same time (1740 is the date on Gardone Church). Why? Is this gathering of such 'chaplains' into collegiate life usual throughout Italy? Is the provision of choir stalls for them behind High Altars common?

Sed et in Arcadia Buonaparte. In March 1797, the West Bank of Garda was lost to La Serenissima and came under the rule of the 'Provisional Government of Brescia', until in November that entity was itself subsumed into the Napoleonic state of the 'Cisalpine Republic'. The Garda Riviera was among the areas which resisted the Provisional Government. It was during this period of ecclesiastical despoliation that the Dominican House in Brescia was closed: its fantastic pietra dura Rosary Altar is now the Lady Altar, the crowning glory, in London's Brompton Oratory.

Next summer, why not go to the Roman Forum? Moreover, if, meanwhile, you still need a holiday this summer combining stunning scenery, Art History (every church in the area is crammed with masterpieces), a lake fit for swimming, fine food, marvellous local wines, why not see if you can still get a booking at the Locanda agli Angeli and, from there, 'do' Garda?


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Try to keep your head in Lake Garda for you never known how many acolytes of Mahomet might be lurking nearby.

Matthew said...

The hotel sounds very enticing, as well as reasonably priced. Can you tell me how you got there? If by air to Bergamo, how did you get from the airport to the hotel? It looks impossible by public transport, but if one hired a car would there be anywhere to park it?