The Model for Campertogno

Church of San Giacomo Maggiore

This wooden model for an unexecuted church at Campertogno in the Val Sesia of northeastern Piedmont is one of the lesser-known subjects in Guarini studies. While no documents explicitly connect the design with Guarino Guarini and the model is first mentioned eight years after his death, nonetheless it seems to be based on a design by or design features associated with the Theatine architect.

Since few photos of the model are available online, I am posting my own snapshots of it taken nearly twenty years ago. Photographed under difficult conditions in a cluttered room with poor lighting, they give a general idea of this curious object.

Images: Views of the model for San Giacomo Maggiore, Campertogno, preserved in the church in Campertogno (click to enlarge)
Source: Susan Klaiber / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
Creative Commons License

The model for the parish church of San Giacomo Maggiore rises over an elongated hexagonal plan with two side chapels on each side. Intersecting ribbed arches springing from the corner and nave piers support an oval drum above the nave. This is then topped with a smaller oval drum with dome resting on an undulating cornice supported by two pairs of arches of unequal height. A raised presbytery on a rectangular plan is attached to the nave with a wide arched transitional space. A portico provides a sheltered entrance to the building, and numerous additional rooms over several stories at the rear would have probably served a wide range of community functions for the parish. The entire church rests on elaborate substructures, designed to tame the difficult site in a narrow rocky valley above the Sesia river.

A 1691 document records payment for transport of the model, which thus probably dates to this period eight years after Guarini’s death. The model measures around 1.3 meters in length and features carved, incised and painted details. Aspects of the design such as the intersecting vault ribs, stacked vaulting elements, double-shelled structure, and use of geometry bear such close connections to the Guarini’s work that the model must represent either a posthumous realization of the architect’s plans, or a project of Guarinian inspiration prepared by a well-informed member of his circle. Giuseppe Dardanello has suggested the master joiner Giovanni Battista Gilardi as the designer or creator of the model (Dardanello 1999). Gilardi originally came from Campertogno and worked in Turin at Guarini’s Palazzo Carignano in the 1690s.

Campertogno Chiesa Parrocchiale pub domThe church that was ultimately built on the same site recalls some features of the model and also retains the sixteenth-century bell tower. It was designed in consultation with Filippo Juvarra and constructed from 1719-35.

Image: San Giacomo Maggiore, Campertogno, entrance facade as executed, 1719-35 (bell tower upper left)
Source: Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Further Reading

Leonardo Benevolo, “La chiesa parrocchiale di Campertogno,” Palladio I (1951): 165-73.

Maria Anderegg-Tille, Die Schule Guarinis (Winterthur: P. G. Keller, 1962): 28-30.

Giuseppe Dardanello, Entry 550 in H. A. Millon, ed., The Triumph of the Baroque, Architecture in Europe 1600-1750, exhibition catalogue (Milan: Bompiani, 1999): 575-6.

Andrew Morrogh, “Guarino Guarini and Christopher Wren” in Maria Beltramini and Caroline Elam, eds., Some Degree of Happiness: studi di storia dell’architettura in onore di Howard Burns (Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2010): 507-529.

Gianni Molino, Il modello della chiesa di Campertogno (PDF with illustrated essay by local historian summarizing the main points regarding the model).

In Valsesia, Campertogno, 1922 (m 815) Image: Postcard of Campertogno postmarked 8 June 1922
Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Unknown photographer / Fel_031867-RE / Public Domain