|Suggested itineraries Faith and traditions
The province of Bergamo is a very religious land, enriched by the historical, artistic and cultural heritage you can find in every little town.
Religious itinerary in Val Cavallina
The area of Val Cavallina includes Trescore Balneario, Cenate Sopra, Zandobbio, Gaverina Terme, Spinone al Lago and Monasterolo al Castello, all places where our religious itinerary takes place.
Itinerary Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII
Spread out on gentle slopes blanketed with woods and vineyards, Sotto il Monte had its origins as a collection of farm buildings scattered on the foot of Monte Canto (710 meters) in the shadow of teh Benedictine Abbey of Fontanella St. Egidio beginning in the ninth century.
A poor farming village on the margins of history and time, it entered the twentieth century almost unchanged. The fortified lookout tower guarding the village against intrusion from the flatlands saw no action from the tenth century on, and it was consequently transformed into a belltower for the adjacent parish church in the fourteenth century.
The church was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century in substituted with a new one in a more accessible position, but the tower remained, watching over the quiet little town until the evening of October 28, 1958, when one of the town’s native sons, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, was elected to the papacy, thereby ending the town’s sleepiness and inaugurating an uninterrupted flow of pilgrims that shows no signs of slowing.
The urban development of the last thirty years has not covered up the original character of the city; rather, new architectural elements have successfully been incorporated in such a way as to safeguard the pre-existing characteristics.
Beside the old farm buildings made from the poor materials that were at hand and the narrow and winding roads, new buildings and wider roads now stand. There is a public green space and convenient parking for the thousands of pilgrims who come from all over the world to visit the place where Pope John XXIII was born and spent his childhood.
Human beings need goodness, and that is why Pope John continues to be loved, venerated, and invoked.
It is almost as if you can see him in these streets, among these hills and these houses, in the landscape, so loved and fondly remembered until the last days of is life, his “dear nest of Sotto i Monte”. Every year, when it was possible, as priest, as bishop, as cardinal, he would withdraw here to temper his spirit “in gratia et fede” (from a speech by His Holiness John Paul II on the occasion of his visit to Sotto il Monte on April 26, 1981).
Pope John's birthhouse
On the first floor of this building Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born on November 25, 1881, the fourth of thirteen children in a family of farmers.
He lived here until the age of twelve, when his family moved to nearby Colombera. The house is now entrusted to the care of the priests of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who have maintained it in its orignal state of dignified and austere poverty.
In the rooms some garments once belonging to Pope John are conserved.
Seminary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions
Established at the behest of Pope John on March 18, 1963, he blessed the first stone himself and was proud of the fact that from his little town “so many missionaries carrying to the world Jesus and his love” would set out.
In the external atrium of the seminary there is a bronze statue of the Pope, work of the sculptor Carlo Pisi. It has been rubbed smooth by the touch millions of pilgrims who stop here to pray devoutly.
Church of Santa Maria (XV century)
This is where Angelo Roncalli was baptized the day of his birth. Then on August 15, 1904, he clebrated his first mass in Sotto il Monte here.
In addition to the baptismal font, it contains several remanants of sixteenth-century frescoes and a few paintings with considerable artistic merit.
This was the first residence of the Roncalli family from as early as the year 1400. It changed hands several times until coming into the ownership of the Scotti, a baronial family, who donated it to Pope John after his election to the papacy.
It was in this house that Bishop and later Cardinal Roncalli spent his vacation in Sotto il Monte every year. It is in this sense the real home of the Pope, and here his secretary Monsignor Loris Capovilla collected many of his personal belongings and souvenirs, which have been left in the care of a Bergamo-based order of nuns known as the Suore delle Poverelle.
Monsignor Loris Capovilla also began living here in 1989.
Church of S. Giovanni Battista
The church was built at the beginning of the century using material from the parich church that was demolished on the hill.
In 1959 it was restored and the towering belfry was built.
It houses some eighteenth-century paintings, valuable frescoes, and a wooden statue of the Assumption weighing about 400 kilograms that is carried in a procession through the streets of the town every year.
Torre di S. Giovanni
This ancient watchtower was built in the ninth century atop the hill of the same name, from where the view takes in the enitre Po River Basin as far as the foothills of the Apennines.
Next to the tower were the cemetery and the parish church, demolished at the begninning of the twentieth century.
It was very dear to Pope John, who often climbed it. It was restored and consolidated under the guidance of a local group of alpini (soldiers of the Italian mountain division), who provide refreshments there on Sundays.
Cappella della pace
Dedicated to Maria SS. Regina della Pace (Mary, the Most Holy Queen of Peace), the church was blessed in 1976. The altar was made from an early Christian sarcophagus from the basilica that Constantine had built in honor of St. Peter in Rome. On the right there is a large inlaid portrait of Pope John, made of 70,000 pieces of different colored wood. It is the work of Gusmai di Trani. In the crypt of the chapel rest the remains of the pope’s parents. Pilgrims can always find spiritual aid here.
Piazza della pace
Here pilgrims entering the town are welcomed by the mighty cross of the altar on which Pope John Paul II celebrated the mass on his visit to Sotto il Monte in April of 1981.
Opposite the cemetery the monument to fallen soldiers and, in the moddle of the circular fountain, the peace torch, made of marble, remind visitors of the teachings contained in the encyclical Pacem in Terris.
Abbazia di S. Egidio
A jewel of tenth-century Romanesque architecture still magnificently conserved, surrounded by the fields, quiet woods, and old vineyards that run down the slopes of the hill.
An oasis of peace and tranquility, it is home to the Center for Ecumenical Studies founded by Father David M. Turoldo.
The architecture of the church recalls elements of mystical symbolism, and inside it houses valuable twelfth- and fifteenth-century frescoes, in adittion to precious paintings. Ouside in the cloister, against the wall of the church, is a small temple with a sarcophagus that legend holds contains the remains of the foundress of the abbey, Teoperga.