By the end of the ’90s, I have been involved, on a personal ground, in a project promoted by the former parish priest in Pozzo d’Adda, that is where I’m living, middle way from Milano to Bergamo. The project was aiming at restoring an old church, dated 1592, that was day after day becoming a ruin, and to save it for the generations to come.
The old parish church of Sant’Antonio Abate was the oldest building of the village and the only remain of the ancient time, until recently degraded and abandoned: the last major maintenance date back to 1937. After that date, the abandonment and the lack of maintenance caused, together with the unusual snowfall of 1985, the total collapse of the roof of the central nave and part of the smaller chapels.
At the time of the pastoral visit of St. Carlo Borromeo, in 1561, there was only a chapel; the inhabitants were then few hundred. It had a rectangular plan with a gabled roof, without either the bell tower or the sacristy.
In 1592 it was formally established the Parish of Saint Anthony. The church at that time had a rudimentary floor, coffered ceiling, white interior walls with a painting dedicated to St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows, a semi-circular apse with a window, the altar dedicated to Santa Maria della Neve, the baptistery, and three windows.
Following the Pastoral Visit of 1609, the Archi-diocese of Milan, issued a series of decrees: between them is the order to build a choir and a new altar, that were actually built between 1611 and 1614.
In 1609 there was already the façade, without the image of the saint, which was added at a later time and that has disappeared since long time. After 1614 the plant was substantially transformed, as a result of the work of the bell tower consolidation and transformation of the sacristy; the small door was enlarged, to allow, a greater movement between the inside and the outside.
The first eighteenth-century document we have is an inventory of the Church drawn up in 1713; from 1728 the entrance is equipped with two columns, and the tympanum, both still visible. Since 1732 the floor is tiled and remain so to this day.
In 1766 a decree established the enlargement of the baptistery and the construction of a window in the same; in a document dated 1774 we find a request for expropriation of the land needed to be able to stretch and expand the Church.
Probably in these years, the church had the second and perhaps bigger extension: it was in fact enlarged on both sides, while the façade was rebuilt, preserving the columns and the tympanum on the entrance door.
Nineteenth and twentieth centuries
The first document available is a contract between the City and the Church of Pozzo d’Adda dated 1810 for the construction of the new sacristy; in 1850 the new parish house was built, on the land, donated by Count Melzi d’Eril.
In 1896 the works on the new church began, that was inaugurated in 1901 and since then the old church gradually declined, although it continued to be used for parish activities, at least until the beginning of the sixties.
The last maintenance works of some importance date back to 1937, after that there has been considerable neglect; the 1985 snow caused the collapse of the roof, and since then we no longer have a church, but a ruin.
THE RESTORATION PROJECT
Since 1992, the newly nominated parish priest rev. Quirino Daniotti, started a movement, at first only cultural, for the recovery of the building.
In fact, although it is a work of minor art, it is of particular interest for its style, hard to find in other parts of Italy, but common in some parts of the Iberian Peninsula, and the seventeenth-century frescoes inside; nothing was remaining of the roof, there were still certain frescoed parts inside.
The project of restoration of the building was drafted by the architects Antonella Alfa and Alessandra Cattanei, was then approved by the Office for the Cultural Heritage of the Archi-diocese. It provides for a covering of roof tiles with reticular metal structure and the restoration of the missing parts of masonry with glazed panels.
Thereafter began the phase of engineering and cost evaluation: at the beginning of 2000, arch. Gaetano Arricobene drafted the executive project, obtaining the authorization of the National Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the other permits needed.
Restoration works lasted from 2000 to 2006, with an interruption of a couple of years due to cash flow problems. The building has now been fully recovered and it’s used as multi-purpose hall for conferences, music, meetings and other activities.
The willingness and the effort of a few people allowed to save a piece of our history that would otherwise not exist anymore. The use is free, with the only constraint of the respect due to the original function of the church, as already foreseen by proven diocesan regulations.