April 2022 marked the completion of the major restoration of the large and spectacular structure of the so-called Ancona, now once again installed, as a complement to the marble high altar, in the church of San Giovanni Battista in Mendrisio's old town. The Historical Processions Foundation followed the project for several years.
The Ancona of Our Lady of Sorrows is an imposing altarpiece, created in 1794 by the painter Giovanni Battista Bagutti from Rovio (1742-1823) for the pictorial part, and by the quadraturist Giovanni Battista Brenni from Salorino (1730-1804) for the architectural part. The Ancona depicts, in perspective, a chapel decorated with angels and cherubs, with a niche in the centre, in which Our Lady of Sorrows is displayed during the Septenary and Holy Week.
This highly scenic scaffolding, artfully designed to be placed on the high altar of the church of San Giovanni in Mendrisio, was used until 1994, when the church underwent major restoration work. The Ancona of Our Lady of Sorrows in Mendrisio is one of the few to have been saved from destruction during the years of secularisation of the monasteries in Switzerland, when many such works were burnt.
The restoration of this important altarpiece was therefore extremely important, both to recover a key element of the cultural heritage of the Trasparenti and to give the church of San Giovanni the scenic setting that makes it so unique at Easter.
As tradition dictates, it is mounted on the high altar of the church of San Giovanni Battista in the days leading up to Holy Week, when the Septenary of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated, until the week following Easter, and houses at its centre the statue, a wooden mannequin to be exact, of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Sorrows, with her heart and seven golden swords on her chest, clad in a black velvet robe sumptuously embroidered in gold.
It is an altarpiece of late Baroque and neoclassical style, with a strong scenographic impact that is unique in the historical-artistic panorama of the Canton of Ticino.