Situated at 600 m above sea level, San Barnárd Church is one of a few landmarks of national importance (category A) in the Bellinzona area.
Situated away from the main road network and reachable by cable car – or on foot along trails that can be challenging – the church was relatively unknown and rarely visited, particularly by people from Ticino.
Until 1700, Monte Carasso locals used to live permanently in various hamlets dotted around the area near the picturesque church, whose exquisite frescoes were beautifully preserved through restoration works in recent years.
San Bernardo Church is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
The church was built in the 11th and 12th centuries, although there are no written records that testify to this. There have since been two major milestones over the course of the centuries.
The first was in the 15th century, when the size of the church was doubled with the addition of a porch and a bell tower. Then, in the 16th century, a chapel was added, the apse was renovated, and the sacristy was built. The oldest frescoes in the church are those depicting the Madonna del Latte (Nursing Madonna) and Saint Christopher, dating back to the mid-1300s.
Paintings from 1427 adorn the north wall of the church: Allegoria dei Mesi (Allegory of the Months), Adorazione dei Magi (Adoration of the Kings), Crocifissione (Crucifixion) and Gruppo di Santi (Group of Saints). Following the church’s expansion in the second half of the 1400s, the new walls were frescoed by Cristoforo and Nicolao da Seregno. The paintings in the new chapel and apse date back to the late 1500s and early 1600s. In the early 1700s, the church began seeing something of a downturn.
If the church was indeed built between the 11th and 12th centuries, its dedication certainly came after the end of the 12th century, as Bernardo da Chiaravalle died in 1153 and was canonised in 1174.
Back then, it was a small Romanesque oratory half the length of the building we see today. It stopped where the Allegoria dei Mesi fresco begins, and comprised a nave and a semi-circular apse (with the choir and altar) separated by wooden railings.
San Bernard Church was expanded in 1450, doubling its size with the addition of a porch and a bell tower. This was followed by some work by Cristoforo and Nicolao da Seregno. Cristoforo and his nephew Nicolao were artists originally from Seregno, a town in Brianza, who later settled in Lugano. They worked throughout Ticino, especially in the Sopraceneri region in the second half of the 15th century. The Last Supper was painted by Cristoforo.
In the late 16th century, San Bernard became the church we see today; San Nicola Chapel was built, the apse was remodelled and expanded, and the sacristy was built.
Opening hours with the precence of the guide
January / February / December (Sat - Sun) from 11am - 2pm
March / November (Thu - Sun) from 11am - 3pm
April / May / June from 10:30am - 4:30pm
July / August / September / October (Wed - Sun) from 10am - 5pm
(closed in case of bad weather)