Churches of Varenna

Church of San Giorgio and Church of San Giovanni Battista

Villas, gardens, inner peace: this is Varenna, with two architectural jewels, the Church of San Giorgio and the Church of San Giovanni Battista. A must-to-see open all year.

Church of San Giorgio

Consecrated in 1313, the parish church of San Giorgio is a small masterpiece of 14th century Lombard architecture. Located in the main square, it has a nave and two aisles embellished by a rose window and a fresco portraying Saint Christopher. The baroque altar, with black and red marbles, was inaugurated in 1822. The floor is entirely made by black marble of Varenna.

Beautiful frescoes adorn the inside of the church: the portrayal of Hell on the counter-façade; two figures on the columns, probably representing Saint Gregory the Great and Queen Theodelinda; the symbolic representation of the four Evangelists on the left aisle of the third vault. The polyptych of Saint George painted by Jo Pietro Brentani in 1467 is a notable example of art in Giotto’s style.
The altarpiece, made by Sigismondo De’ Magistris, from Como, dates back to 1533. It represents the Lord kneeling on a rock emerging from the Jordanian river. The Polyptich of the altar is a wooden composition made in the 1500s, author unknown. Two other remarkable components are the altar as well as the statue of Madonna del Rosario, the first made of grey marble, the second made of golden wood.
The Belfry was completed in 1653. Its massive body, standing on four pinnacles, seems a tower with natural stone at the corners.

Church of San Giovanni Battista

San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) is one of the oldest churches on Lake Como and the first church built in Varenna. Built probably before the year 1000 where an older Paleochristian building was located, its current structure is from 1151, when it was expanded.
The restoration work carried out in the 1960s brought to light the Romanic nucleus with one nave and a small apse that were hidden beneath the 17th century transformations. The original timber roof trusses were also re-discovered. An arcosolium was also found at the bottom of the façade, used as a place of entombement.
The church, built of rough grey stone without any decoration on the outside, houses important frescoes on the inside. The side walls are decorated with excellent, but poorly-preserved 14th century frescoes; the Adoration of the Three Wise Men is portrayed on the left wall and St. John the Baptist, other Saints and St. George killing the Dragon on the right. The frescoes in the apse date back to the beginning of the 16th century; the portrayal of the Redeemer between the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, framed by a grotesque motif with the Serponti’s family coat of arms is in the basin. Episodes of the Visitation and the Baptism of Christ (painted by the same artist as the others) are portrayed on the left-hand wall.
The Romanic bell tower is built in the direction of the lake, as was the habit in that time. The bells are from 1730.

Chiesa di San Giorgio

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