We caught a small ferry over to Isola San Giulio on our trip to Lake Orta, Italy in September 2018. We didn’t have long to wait for one of the smaller ferries, they criss cross the lake picking up passengers as they go. We were very lucky, when we landed on the island, there must have been over a hundred plus tourists getting on to the ferries to leave, which meant the little island was quite empty to what it had been minutes before…..not sure where everyone would have fitted. Anyway, we made our way to the Basilica, through an arch and up steps into quite an amazing space.
Tradition has it that the church was founded by St Julius in the fourth century and later restored in the Middle Ages. The interior hides precious frescoes of the XV-XVI century and paintings of Giorgio Bonola and Francesco del Cairo, among others.
I did find it very difficult to photograph the church as a whole, I normally like to try, and get a wide view of the main aisle and altar, but not here, it was like maze. A beautiful colourful maze, I could have spent a couple of hours there, but we were going to walk around the island, and had to make sure we were back in time for the last ferry. But there was one other item that caught my attention, the pulpit.
Some history…..The Romanesque ambone, made by dark gray-green serpentino (a kind of stone that on contact with air it takes a color similar to bronze) and extracted from the nearby quarries of Oira, can be dated to the early twelfth century. It has a square plan with four columns supporting the parapet and rests on a base decorated with acanthus leaves. Watching the figures we find: a centaur in the act of shooting an arrow at a deer, the symbolic four evangelists’ representations (the ox of Luke, the angel of Matthew, the lion of Mark, the ‘eagle of John), and the representation of a griffin that bites the tail of a crocodile. The two fight scenes – corresponding to medieval bestiaries – signify the struggle between good and evil…..I could only manage to take a photo of one side and it was so dark, that only when I lightened the photo, did I see really see how amazing it is, and just wished it had been easier to photograph.
Below a few photos of the island, my husband choose Lake Orta, as I love islands and of course churches, but there was still another surprise for me. Next post, a walk around the island and ferry back to the mainland.