In the upper part of Belluno Province, there are more than 70 churches with a rich and varied testimony of faith and culture. Only some of the most interesting places are covered here, so go ahead and explore this area and all the art treasures it holds.
The Church of Santa Maria Nascente in the heart of Agordo is the starting point of your trip. The building is imposing with rigorous architectural articulation and looks the way it does after several interventions that changed the original physiognomy.
A spacious area at the entrance is characterized by large, brightly coloured frescoes by Giovanni De Min. The amount of artwork and furnishings is rich. The torture of Saint Justine by Palma the Younger, the angels holding light by Valentino Panciera Besarel and his father, the sculptural group with the Enthroned Virgin and Child also by Besarel, the canopy used during the Eucharistic services accompanying the coronation of Ferdinand I of Austria in Milan, are just a few examples of this rich heritage.
In the parish church of San Michele Arcangelo at La Valle Agordina, admire the high altar, made by Valentino Panciera Besarel, which was greatly admired by Queen Margaret, on a visit to the Val di Zoldo artist, even before it was finished.
In Taibon, look inside the church of Santi Cornelio and Cipriano at the 16th-century fresco depicting the The Last Supper by Paris Bordon, part of a corpus of wall paintings by different artists. Also in Taibon, the church of San Lucano is worth seeing for understanding local culture, although much of its furnishings and historical memories were lost during the 1966 flood. St Lucan is, in fact, also known as the Apostle of the Dolomites. He lived and died as a poor hermit in the valley named after him. Linked to him is the figure of the Blessed Vaza, a humble and pious local peasant woman who lived with the miracle worker. His grave was inside the church of St Lucan, but unfortunately it was lost in 1966.
Next, go to Canale d’Agordo to the Archpriest’s Church of San Giovanni Battista, the parish where Albino Luciani, later Pope John Paul I, grew up.
Upon entering the spacious religious building, notice the tabernacle of the high altar by Andrea Brustolon and his workshop. The large medallion with the Baptism of Christ above the main entrance is by Valentino Panciera Besarel. Also deserving attention is the small altarpiece of the Madonna of the Beaten painted by Francesco Frigimelica the Elder.
For the next lap, head to Alleghe with its beautiful lake to admire the interior of the church of San Biagio. The building is the result of a reconstruction in 1873 and subsequent interventions. The previous church was destroyed on the night of 11 January 1771, when a huge landslide blocked the course of the Cordevole stream, thus creating Lake Alleghe. In the little chapel that opens on the left wall of the nave, you can admire the statue of Our Lady of Loreto, probably the prototype for most of the sculptures dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto in the Agordina Valley and Valle del Biois. Looking up, you can notice the cycle of frescoes with the glory of St Blaise, Jacob’s dream, sacrifice of Noah and the judgement of Solomon.
Next, go to the hamlet of Calloneghe in the municipality of Rocca Pietore to see the Shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The decision to build the shrine was made on 13 March 1654 to pay homage to Our Lady of Grace, who saved them from a terrible misfortune. However, construction began in 1722 and was completed, with later renovations and expansion, only in 1954.
Above the portico of the entrance hall, admire the striking high-relief strip made by Augusto Murer. Also by the sculptor are the 3 carved ash wood panels near the baptismal font. The 12 little angels done by firing enamel on cast iron that decorate the high altar are by Toni Benetton. The figurative centrepiece of the whole church is the painting of Our Lady of Grace.
Also in Rocca Pietore, the parish church of Santa Maria Maddalena is worth a stop to see an extraordinary 16th century Flügelaltar by Ruprecht Potsch.
Conclude your journey admiring the art treasures in Agordo in the hamlet of Pescul. Here you can admire the harmonious sobriety of the church of Santa Fosca characterized by Gothic linearity and essentiality. Your attention will be drawn to the monumental structure of the high altar, among the most representative examples of the Baroque style in Belluno province. Inside, you can see the ancient Flügelaltar, dated between about 1490 and 1500. Without a dais, doors or coping, it was inserted in place of the altarpiece. The altarpiece by Frigimelica the Elder is interesting for its particular and unusual iconography. The work depicts the Virgin leaving her belt to the apostles, a symbol of her intercession and connection with the prayers of the faithful.