San Nicola (Giornico)

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San Nicola (19th century)
From the southeast

The Church of San Nicola (also Nicolao) was built in the 12th century. It stands in the middle of a vineyard on the right side of the Ticino in Giornico in Leventina in the Swiss canton of Ticino . San Nicola is considered to be the most impressive example of Lombard Romanesque in Switzerland. The church is dedicated to Nicholas of Myra .


It is not known when and by whom San Nicola was built. The year 1168 can be deciphered on an inscription on a stone slab above the main portal; the date could refer to the end of construction or to the consecration. The construction could be related to the (planned) opening of the Gotthardweg . In 1210 Giornico is mentioned as a monastery , but it is not known whether this refers to San Nicola. In 1298 Giornico belonged to the Cluniac Abbey of Fruttuaria near Turin .



From the northwest

The walls consist of precisely hewn granite stones from the area. Under the roof they are decorated all around with blind arcades . The bell tower is inserted into the nave at the front. The two portals on the west and south sides are decorated with fabulous figures that, like the two lions to the left and right of the main portal, were supposed to protect the room from evil spirits.


The archaic-looking nave is a rectangular hall with remains of frescoes on the unplastered walls. The floor is laid with irregularly laid granite slabs. The arrangement of the choir and crypt is striking : from the nave you can see into the choir and the crypt at the same time.

The choir is higher than the nave and is closed off by a semicircular apse . From the nave, stairs lead up from the right and left.

Under the choir is the hall crypt open to the nave with the block altar from the time the church was built. It is accessible from the church by stairs. The three naves are covered by groin vaults and separated from one another by two rows of four columns each. The capitals have animal, vegetable or geometric figures.



Late Gothic wall paintings by Nicolao da Seregno have been preserved in the vaulted ceiling of the apse . Uncle and nephew Seregno painted numerous churches in the southern Alpine valleys between 1448 and 1480, almost in a monopoly position. The inscription in tiny Gothic letters above the window gives the year 1478 and names the painter: nicola seregnio de lug. pinsit . The names of the clients are in a further inscription below the window.

Christ in the mandorla is surrounded by the four evangelist symbols. Above the central window of the apse, the Holy Trinity is depicted as a Trivultus : a face with four eyes, three noses and three mouths. This type of representation was forbidden in 1628 by a papal edict. Since San Nicola was never a parish church, the depiction was never painted over.

On the right side of the central window a crucifixion group with Margaret of Antioch and Mary Magdalene is depicted, on the left the saints Godehard , Viktor , Simon Petrus and Nikolaus. The three gold balls in Nicholas' hand symbolize the gold pieces with which he saved three poor virgins from shamefully earning a living. Next to Nikolaus there is a barrel with three boys that Nikolaus brought back to life.

Church interior

On the north side there are remains of a Last Supper from the Romanesque period, on the south wall there are images of saints from the 13th century. In 1945 the pictures were restored by T. Pozzi and B. Abbiati.

Baptismal font

Baptismal font

The hexagonal baptismal font dates from the 12th century. The basin, decorated with animal figures and ornaments, first stood next door in the parish church of San Michele, later served in the village as a fountain and flower bowl until it was brought to the church of San Nicola.


  • Art guide through Switzerland, Volume 2. Ed. By the Society for Swiss Art History. Bern 2005.
  • Klaus Speich, Hans Schläpfer: Churches and monasteries in Switzerland. Ex Libris, Zurich 1978, p. 94.

Web links

Commons : San Nicola  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Church of San Nicola  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: dead link /  
  2. Simona Martinoli et alii: Guida d'arte della Svizzera italiana , (ed. GSK), Edizioni Casagrande, Bellinzona 2007, ISBN 978-88-7713-482-0 , pp. 117-118.
  3. Cristoforo e Nicolao da Seregno (Italian)
  4. ^ Matthias Oberli: Nicolao da Seregno. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  5. Trivultus on ( Memento of the original from December 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ The frescoes of the Church of San Nicolao on

Coordinates: 46 ° 24 '1.9 "  N , 8 ° 52' 27.2"  E ; CH1903:  710400  /  139807