Santa Maria del Sasso

The Church of Saint Maria del Sasso

The Renaissance-Baroque style church, was built in several stages. Initially, between 1470 and 1478 a building was erected with three naves in the Romanesque style, with six characteristic pillars in terra cotta. In 1581 the lateral chapel was erected, dedicated to San Carlo.

Ten years later, it was the chapel of the crucifixion turn to be put in front of the structure and between 1750 and 1758, the niche of the altar and the two sacristies were finnaly added.

Recent notes from Pierre Jaccard’s thesis on Trecento paintings – which, incidentally, are the oldest testimony of their kind available – suggest that the church was built to host the ever-growing congregation, as the Oratory of Saint Anthony the Great had become too small. Local tradition has it that the church was built in the second half of the 15th century atop the highest plateau on the mountain, right next to the castle (Teucro Isella, 1957). A Sisyphean challenge if there ever was one, as the boulders taken to the mountaintop reappeared in the valley the following day, taken down by the castle’s dwellers, who were not all that pleased with the prospect of a church so close to their stronghold. And so the church was built on a lower plateau, where a votive chapel, dedicated to Saint Maria del Sasso, had been ever since 1319. Other sources (Gruber E. 1939) believe its origins could be much older and go back to the 13th century. The new church was thus an extension of an already existing place of worship, with works carried out between 1462 (as testified by the inscription behind the main altar) and 1478, when the Paleari, a local noble family, inhabited the castle and were Mayors of Morcote. Between 1470 and 1478, the new Romanic church and two lateral naves were built with the chapel of Saint Charles added in 1581. Over the course of the centuries, other elements were added: the large SS. Sacramento chapel was built in 1591, followed by the two sacristies, the apse and the main altar (between 1750 and 1758). The church today features a Latin cross, three naves and five altars. Members of the Fossati family had a decisive role in building the church which boasts impressive architectural elements, ogival arches and Lombard bands, uniting solemn and beautiful architectural elements in one building. The church’s interior stands out for its great historical and artistic significance, namely its tiled Romanic columns from the original building, supporting the wide arches dividing the central nave from its two lateral counterparts. The small arch positioned at the end of the eastern nave is considered one of the most beautiful arch decorations of the late Quattrocento (1480 – 1490) in Lombardy. There are also frescoes from the early Cinquecento in typical Lombard style in the central and left nave (1595 and 1614 respectively) while the stunning main Baroque marble altar is from 1782 and comes from the Viggiù workshops. The white marble altar was made by sculptor Tiravanti.

Opening hours:


1 April to 30 September : dalle ore 07.00 - 21.00

1 October to 31 March : dalle ore 08.00 - 20.00