Gandino - Convent of the Ursuline Sisters

The convent stands in Ruviali community (ad Ruviales) and today is the site of a nursing home, was built in the last thirty years of the 15th century for minor friars observing the Rule of Saint Francis.
Due to generous donations from private persons and certainly no less generous support from the warlord Bartolomeo Colleoni, the general captain of the Republic of Venice who, in his last will and testament (27 October 1475), bequeathed the sum of 200 imperial lira to the convent under construction, as works had already begun in the spring of 1473, so they might proceed regularly.

The dormitory and cloister were completed in 1478, and likewise was the annexed church dedicated to Holy Mary of Grace and Saint Bernardino in 1481, which was solemnly consecrated on 17 May 1489 by Monsignor Leone, Bishop of Scizia.
It was necessary to wait until 1501 for the capitular room to be completed, when construction work was duly finished, when the lovely monochromatic fresco work was carried out attributed to painters Bernardino and Antonio Marinoni, sons of Giovanni da Desenzano.
The convent stands on a highland known as ad Ruviales, close to the perimeter of Gandino’s walls. Of notable size and clear architectural plan, the complex is composed of a large cloister with pointed arches onto which several buildings with varying functions look, which comprise the well-structured system of each convent.

The longitudinal side of the large Franciscan church in Gothic style closed the cloister on the northern side.
Following the suppression decreed by the Cisalpine Republic, new demands imposed transformations on the architectural structure and slowly several parts of it were subsequently abandoned; such was the case of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and San Bernardino, as it was denuded of its finest works of art (La Deposizione painted by Gian Battista Moroni in 1566, now in the Carrara Picture-Gallery in Bergamo and L’Assunzione della Vergine con Santi by Enea Salmeggia, a work now found in the church of S. Alessandro della Croce in Bergamo).

Before demolishing this holy building in 1963, several frescoes were detached which are now held in the museum of Gandino’s Basilica. The following were saved from demolition: the cloister, decorated with an interesting sundial and 16th and 17th century frescoes that were recently restored, the two-floor building on the eastern side of the cloister and the magnificent capitular room on the first floor, leaning against the ancient presbytery. Opening onto a large open gallery finished with round arches, the room features a square plan with an umbrella vault. What makes it unique is the tempera decoration on the lunettes. Half-bust figures of saints and Franciscan personages are depicted in monochromatic green, work attributed to the Marinoni workshop in 1501. The decoration on the vault is essential with a simple Greek fret which emphasises the umbrella ribbing; each section features the Chi-Rho christogram, attributed to Bernardino of Siena in green and ochre.

The sole window illuminating the capitular room looks out on the cloister and features a pronounced decorated splay. On the northern wall which bounded the presbytery and serves as a wall to the capitular room, ancient frescoes are still visible if only in traces, and trilobated niches which were used to store liturgical furnishings.