History of the Church of St. Mary of GRACE
in the Diocese of Bergamo

In the very location of the actual Church of St. Mary Immaculate of Graces was the franciscan convent founded by St. Bernardino of Siena in 1422 as mark of the appeasement achieved by the Saint between opposed political factions.
The revamping of the downtown in the middle of the 19th century to pave way between the station and the city center required the demolition of the ancient church; however the cloister of the old complex (which is still visible in Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, 13) was preserved and most of the masterpiece which still embellish the new church: the miraculous fresco called “Santo Jesus” that transfigured itself in 1608 still revered in the precious woodden altar carved by Caterina Caniana (1761), a Madonna with Saints by Giambettino Cignaroli (1752), a Madonna with Saints by Giampaolo Cavagna (1619), a Madonna with Saints by Enea Salmeggia (1594), the cycle of frescoes representing Stories of the life of St. Francis painted in 1507 by Jacopino Scipioni and many 15th century frescoes.
The actual structure-plan of the church, built in 1857 –   1875 at greek cross in neoclassical style, was realised by architect Antonio Preda, who managed to blend the new building with the  old one, making the complex of St. Mary of Graces the very heart of the downtown.
The entire frescoes decoration of the church culminates in the Glory of Mary painted in 1865 – 1868 by Enrico Scuri -director of the Painting School of the Accademia Carrara – and his scholars.


Do you know the story of the Holy Jesus?

The documents of the time tell us that in 1422 the nobleman Pietro Ondei from Alzano decided to donate to S. Bernardino from Siena a ground outside the city walls of Bergamo so that he could found a monastery to dedicate to St. Mary Immaculate of Graces. The saint had settled in Bergamo in 1419 and preached the devotion in the Name of Jesus and peace between rival parties.
On the boundary wall of the monastery St. Bernardino had the image of Christ falling under the weight of the Cross frescoed.  
On the evening of April 30, 1544 the image was seen sweating blood from the forehead by various witnesses.
On April 5, 1575 the image of Christ sweated blood for the second time and St. Charles Borromeo, who was visiting our Diocese, sanctioned the genuineness of the miracle.
On September 15, 1608, at about 10 o’clock, two boys saw the figure of Christ stand up, move the Cross from the left shoulder to the right one and sweat blood again, while the mantle, originally red and blue, became white edged in gold; an aureole appeared around Christ’s  head as well as the signs of the Passion on his  hands and his feet: so the image of the Portacroce was transfigured in the Risen Lord.
Once transfigured, the miraculous Icon of the Holy Jesus continued to dispense graces too.
To meet the continuous and intense devotion of the believers, around the image was erected a chapel leaning against the wall of the monastery.
In 1889, after the demolition of the old monastery, the fresco was moved into the chapel inside the new church of St. Mary Immaculate of Graces, consecrated in 1875.
The Icon of the Holy Jesus is still the center of unchanged devotion, sincere piety and ardent prayers.
Among the most fervent devotees was Pope Giovanni, who often came here to pray.
In 1914 Pope Giovanni first studied the story of this Icon.
The memorial tablet at the entrance of the chapel quotes plenary and partial indulgences that can be obtained by visiting the chapel.
Fresco above the internal entrance of the chapel made after the transfiguration in 1608. It reproduces the original image, with the addition of St. Bernardino and St. Francesco helping Christ.