Things to Do Today – No.7 San Carlone and Arona

If you only have a few hours don’t miss seeing the Colosso di San Carlo Borromeo one of the tallest stautes in Europe, known as  “San Carlone”. It is considered to be the  maximum expression of Christian religion.

Situated above Arona, with a fantastic view over the Lake the statue in made of brass. It is 35 metres tall and can be visited inside right up into the head. The statue consists of a core made of masonry and an iron and wood framework covered with copper sheeting; the head and the hands are made of bronze. At 23.40 metres high, plus the 11.70 metres of granite pedestal, the statue is one of the biggest in the world. You can climb up inside the statue right to the massive head, from where the view out over the lake is exceptional. Not for the faint hearted or the unfit.

Carlo Borromeo was born in Arona in 1538. He was made a cardinal at the age of 22 , bishop of Milan 6 years later  and died in 1584, having dedicated his life to helping the poor. The Statue was built by his cousin Federico and finished in 16 98. This huge statue, is full of significance, and exemplifies a particular kind of religious faith which finds its expression in the outsize. San Carlo seems to look on his people kindly but severely; his head slightly inclined, the Saint blesses his native town with his right hand raised, while in his left hand he holds the great book of laws of the Milanese church.

Also worth visiting in Arona is the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Arona, of  Romanesque origin, stands at the top of the steps at the back of Piazza San Graziano.

Known as San Graziano Church, it has been renovated several times over the years. It now presents a Baroque façade and attractive 15thcentury walls built of square blocks of serizzogranite.

The interior contains a number of art works: the marble High Altar with bas-reliefs of the Martyrs (15th century), an altarpiece of 1480, masterwork of Ambrogio da Fossano called il Bergognone, and beautiful stained glass, especially that of the windows in the San Carlo chapel, dating from 1502. A shrine lined with precious 18th century silk contains some relics of San Carlo, including his crosier.

The fine 1852 fountain is an attractive feature of the small square outside the church.  At the back is the Beolchi Ossuary chapel, an excellent example ofLombard Baroque (17th century), with striking wrought-iron railings in flower patterns and some still-visible frescoes.

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