Santuario di San Giovanni

The Saint Giovanni d'Andorno Sanctuary

The fact that the St. John the Baptist hospice-sanctuary is an architectural and environmental complex for the community is due to its monumental size, to the devotional symbols of its access paths, to its features and to the civil and religious ceremonies, which have been taken place there from more than four centuries.
Its present appearance, which started in the early 17th century and lasted till the beginning of the 20th century, is due to the hard work made by generations of the valley inhabitants and to the generosity of many rich people, who gave their money to the hospice. It is also the result of those who trusted in the values of solidarity, education and unity of its inhabitants, making that place a moral and civil point of reference for the population and for the public institutions of the Valley.
The will of the population gave to the Administrative Council, representing all the communes, great autonomy and powers to decide for a quite large territory, which includes farms, upper-level pastures, mowing land and forests. That allowed the Body to have enough economic autonomy in order to put in practice its social aims. The neutrality and its extraterritorial characteristic of the Sanctuary are underlined by the fact that is placed outside the centre, along the old route for Oropa and by the boundary mark between the Commune of Graglia and S. Paolo Cervo. This boundary splits in two the square and divides the building of the rectorate from the church, passing from the 18th century gallery, which represents the choice of universality in order to overcome the hidden local boundaries.
The church is one of the most important point of the whole complex. It was set up between 1602 and 1606 on the former sacellum of the holy forerunner, then its sacristy and choir were enlarged following the architect Bernardo Vittone's plan and it was finally heightened in 1742.
In the following centuries, they built the adjoining buildings in order to create the present planimetric complex, with an open plan, overlooking the bottom of the valley. In 1608, the rectorate and the opposite "hosteria" (nowadays restaurant) were built. In 1680, Carlo Emilio San Martino from Parella, Marquis of Andorno, set up the big building, placed in the Eastern side of access to the Hospice. In 1713, thanks to the generosity of the notary Giovanni Battista Accati, that building became the school of the whole Valley and then male boarding school, which was closed in 1935.
In 1718, as the entrepreneur Tommaso Romano planned, the "Hosteria" was enlarged and used as the palace for believers, pilgrims and spiritual exercises. In 1766, the Northern side was ended and closed by the building for the hospitality and by the church, creating the pilgrims' wing.
At the end of the 19th century, they undertook a new work of earth moving in the lower large square, which till that moment had a uniform slope, from the main door of access to the church courtyard. So the great staircase and the two present levels were made.
Only in 1934, when the activity of the school and of the boarding school were almost closed, the gym was built and the lower square was enlarged reaching the present appearance, thanks to the legacy made by Roberto Martinazzi from Quittengo.
In the surroundings, inside the beechwood, the 19th century graveyard and the tower bell ("campanun") were set up (in 1740), on the former tower of 1635. It was placed far from the church, on a rib, towards the valley, in order to allow each village to hear the tolling of its bell. That was moulded in 1764 and it is one of the most remarkable in Piedmont, for its size and weight (16 tons).
The Church has one nave and four side chapels, two for each side, which are dedicated to the forerunner's parents (St. Elisabeth and St. Zaccaria) and to the Jesus' ones (Immaculate Mary and St. Joseph). It is covered by three rib vaults and a cupola, containing precious works of art by some of the major 18th century artists and craftsmen from Biella and Valsesia: the painters Fabrizio and Bernardino Galliari, Antonio Cucchi, the workers in ebony Carlo Francesco Auregio and Pietro Antonio Serpentiero. Beside the local stone, they use also a lot of white marble, taken from the quarry of Mazzucco, in Rassa, (Valsesia). In fact, the architraves, the floors of the choir as well as the holy-water basins (one of which dates back to 1585) are made in marble. Its characteristic fountain, with its octagonal basin ("Burnell"), and a central stoup, was set up in the first half of the 17th century, then remade in 1789 and finally put where now stands, when the square was enlarged, in 1934.

Weekdays h. 16:45 (no lunes);
Saturday h. 16;
Sunday h. 11:15 / 16:00;

Albergo San Giovanni: Tel.+39 015 60007
Ostello San Giovanni: Tel.+39 015 60007
Ristorante San Giovanni: Tel.+39 015 60007

Atl - sede di Biella
P.zza V. Veneto, 3
13900 Biella
Tel. 015/351128
Fax 015/34612


Destination: Provincia di Biella - Valle Cervo - Campiglia Cervo
Altitude: 1012.0 m.
Type: Art-Culture - Places of cult - Architecture - Arts and the Environment - Sanctuary


San Giovanni