Perched on top of a a sunny plateau formed by the Serio and its Romna tributary, Casnigo sits above the middle of the “Val Seriana”. Thanks to its sunny, strategic position, it has been inhabited since pre-historic times. In Celtic times, Casnigo was a military and religious outpost of the mythical Parra, capital of the Gauls until the Roman conquest, linguistic evidence of which can be detected in a number of local place names. During later Roman times, Casnigo served to control communications with the upper Serio valley and the adjacent mines – a strategic position that continued into the Middle Ages. Traces of this importance are all over the area. Our exploration of the past seen through history and the lay of the land will also call our attention to its incomparable, sometimes overlooked, panoramic beauty. A visit to Casnigo might begin at the Archpresbyterial Church, originally constructed at the end of the first millennium. On its high altar is a magnificent wooden dais by the sculptor Montanino.
The carving of the choir was by the Fantoni school. There are paintings by renown Bergamo artists, one is attributed to Tintoretto or his school, and another to that of Tiziano. Do not fail to note the marble frontals of the lateral altars. The sacristy is full of splendid armoires from the early 18th century, attributed to Ignazio Illipront, a work of integrity and quality unique in the province. Stored inside these armoires, too, are priceless works of art (accessible for viewing on request). Of these particularly worth mentioning is the 15th-century “cope”, or long ecclesiastical robe, from the Byzantine-Venetian school, and sewn in the same purple color as the Venetian Doges’ mantles; incomparably intricate engraved “pyxes”, or host receptacles, from various periods; and a “monstrance”, or host-exhibition vessel, chosen by the Bishop to be used in the city of Bergamo for the National Eucharist Congress. A few steps further on is the early 16th century (ex) “Church of the Holy Spirit”, now owned by the local public. It has been in a process of restoration so as to take advantage of its exceptional acoustics. This will provide an appropriate auditorium for such musical performances as those featuring the traditional Bergamo bagpipes, or “baghèt”, which, with the help of its oldest living player, a native of Casnigo, has also been restored to its ancient splendour. The efforts of the local “Baghet Society” have resulted in the town council’s decision to officially declare Casnigo “Bagpipe City”. On a splendid shelf of land above town commanding a full view of the way the Valgandino opens into the Serio Valley and then to the Po plain, we find the magnificent “Sanctuary of the Holly Trinity”, a jewel of the Roman Gothic in this province. Among its richly restored 15th-century frescoes a polyptych by the Marinoni school and a thematic series by the Bascheni school depicting the last judgement, the life and passion of Christ, the apostles, prophets and theologians. This brilliant work, in the triumphal arch of the presbytery, is known as “Bergamo’s little Sistine Chapel”. Do not overlook the 18th-century stone alms collection chest, the beautifully handcarved choir, the 17th-century organ, the statuary group of the three magi, and the endowment of relics still in their original containers from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Outside the sanctuary, a road leads past stone huts, woods and meadows to the “Our Lady of Erbia” sanctuary, for a breathtaking view of the upper Serio Valley and the Pre-Alps from a place of quiet meditation reminiscent of other times. This sanctuary commemorates two “August” apparitions of the Madonna: the 5th of August, 1550, and the 6th of August 1839. Although built only in the 19th century, the church contains an interesting collection of votive offerings going back to the beginning of that century. Do not miss the wooden apse in the niche to the right of the presbytery by a 17th-century Bergamo craftsman, nor the cassock last worn by Blessend John Pope Paul II, a modern relic of such symbolic meaning as to have made the sanctuary a destination for devout pilgrimages and contributing to its understandable fame. Rather than taking the road back down the hill, there is a great trail through woods, across well-tended fields and houses often decorated with frescoes of the Erbia miracles, permitting a taste of pastoral life. A quick stop at the “Barbada” chapel dedicated to “Our Lady of Sorrow”. Then a pleasant walk back into the ancient narrow streets of town, discovering shortcuts and the many hidden altars to the saints awaiting the passerby.
An exceptional example of local architecture is the little theatre of the “Brotherhood Circle”, open by request, with its magnificent interior structure built earlier than the 16th century, the property of the Bonandrini-family.In addition to many other local events and initiatives, some of the best times of the year to visit Casnigo are:
- the day before Epiphany, when the Magi, accompanied by a grand procession of costumed participants with their animals, “traverse from the far-off” Trinity Sanctuary to the penetrating music of the bagpipe players and distribute their gifts to all the children in town;
- the fourth Sunday of Lent, final day of the, “Triduo dei Morti”, or three days commemorating the dead, to celebrate the solemn radiance of the huge halo;
- the “Feast of the Holy Trinity”, when the sanctuary and its ample grounds are utilized by the “Holy Spirit Cultural Association” to serve the traditional “Chesciola é lacc” in perfect accord with the centuries past;
- the 5th and 6th of August, for the festivities at “Our Lady of Erbia” sanctuary.