The history of the Orebic convent begins in the fifteenth century. On the site there was a small church with some annexed rooms in which lived a hermit named Claudio.
The name derives from the sand that makes up the ground. The first news about Sabbioncello dates back to 1026. They talk about the existence of a castle on the area of the current little church and convent square. This fortification was owned by the Torriani family and was destroyed along with the castle of Merate around 1270 with the exception of the church. Claudio, in the ruins of the church, succeeded in aggregating other hermits and forming a religious association. They were allowed to build a larger church, with pointed arches up to the presbytery and with a facade facing Montevecchia. Later, the Benedictine monks of the San Dionigi Abbey in Milan, owners of the building, granted the right to build. A bell tower was erected, a small house and a small cloister behind the church to welcome pilgrims and the poor. In the first thirty years of the 1500s a wall of the church was also frescoed with numerous popular votive offerings.
Birth of the Convent
In 1540, the Franciscans Amadeiti took over the Church of Santa Maria di Sabbioncello and began to build the sacristy, the refectory and the kitchen, as well as other service facilities. In 1588, the masters Battista and Domenico Chiesotto built the present presbytery, on the ancient entrance to the church, reversing its orientation. They also erected the current facade of the church facing east. The sails of the choir were then frescoed with the figures of the four Evangelists who accompany the four fathers of the Latin Church: Ambrogio, Agostino, Gerolamo and Gregorio. In 1810 Napoleon suppressed the convent. The Friars Minor returned there decades later when it became a convent of the Lombard Province of the Friars Minor. In 1954 a new wing was built. It currently houses the library and hosts various pastoral and cultural activities. In 1967, along the road that goes up to the convent, the stations of the Via Crucis in cotto were inaugurated, the work of Father Nazareno Panzeri.
In the following years, various restoration works were carried out on the structure and side chapels of the church and cloister. There are many elements of historical and artistic interest contained in the church of Santa Maria Nascente. The building has a single nave, with a pointed arched roof and chapels on the left side. Many south side walls and the pilasters between the side chapels are decorated with murals. Above the chapels have been installed artistic windows that recall devotion. Above the chapel of the Incoronata is a fresco depicting Maria Assunta surrounded by angels.
The Chapel of the Crucifix
The chapel of the Crucifix takes its name from the presence of an ancient crucifix that belonged to Federico Borromeo, cousin of San Carlo Borromeo. In the chapel there are two frescoes painted in 1593 by Giovan Mauro and Giovan Battista della Rovere, called the Fiamminghini. The entire wall on the right is covered with numerous frescoes dating back to the early 1500s. They are therefore the work of different artists and some are valuable. In particular, one bears the date of 1515 and was made by Thomas Malagridas‘ brush, as can be read on the cartouche. Many of the frescoes depict the Madonna nursing baby Jesus. This indicates that grace was concerning conception and motherhood.
Wooden statue of the Immaculate Virgin
Another work of great artistic interest is represented by the wooden statue of the Immaculate Virgin contained in an ancon placed above the high altar, carved in 1741 by friar Francesco da Vanzone. Inside the church is kept, as a relic, the habit that belonged to San Giovanni da Capestrano, a disciple of San Bernardino. He was an Italian religious who was proclaimed saint by the Catholic church in 1690 for his intense work of evangelization carried out in many foreign countries, including Hungary. Valuable work is the choir stalls in walnut, oak, chestnut and poplar, made in the last decade of the sixteenth century.
In the two cloisters of the convent there are several testimonies from various periods. Among them a Roman votive altar in granite dedicated to the Matrons and a sixteenth-century high relief with the monogram of Christ. Over the years, many changes have been made to offer a better service to the sick brothers. The structure tries to respond better to the logistic and health needs of the guests. Even today, the Convent of Sabbioncello is home to the Infirmary of the Friars Minor for the care of the sick brothers according to what St. Francis says in its rules. The friars animate the Marian shrine with the daily liturgy and the service of confessions. They also offer pastoral service to parishes and religious institutes in the surrounding area.