If you drive on Statale Regina at the height of Lenno just beneath the road you can see to the Church of Santo Stefano and not visiting it means losing a chance to see the authentic archeological jewel inside the holy building: an eleventh century Crypt which can be reached through two hatches covered with carpets in the middle of the central nave.

Before the construction of a Christian worshipping place there were the remains of a Roman thermal building the area is in fact it was quite close to two of Plino’s villas. From Paganism to monotheism, after dissolutions man goes in search of absolution through purification. And the proverbial wisdom of local people states it unequivocally: “Quaand ul corp a’l sa frusta/l’anima la se giusta!” (when you whip the body, the soul gets better). Once in a while it is good to leave our “culture” aside and observe the local historical-artistic heritage with the eye of an ordinary man seeing it for the first time.

A few steps from the Church of Santo Stefano there is the Baptistery (eleventh century). What may common people have thought of that octagonal structure so different from the four walls of the places where they were born and where they would probably die? Did they know that the eight walls weren’t only the architect’s eccentricity but Saint Augustine’s thought who considered that shape the perfect shape; according to a symbolic interpretation “eight” corresponded to the days of Creation plus the day of the Resurrection, the day of the new “creation”, the day of the new “covenant” with God? And would they have wondered about the function of that small steeple almost on the center of the roof? As it was on a place where there was a baptismal font it made people think about a small stork house. It would really be nice to look at things as if we were at the origin of the gaze, trying to understand them, well-aware of our healthy ignorance.


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