Church of St. Magdalena in Moso

Villabassa, Italy | C.1490

Photo Credit: Valentina Zinna

Italy in the late 15th century was marked by the artistic and scientific growth that erupted from the city of Florence. Italy’s greatest thinkers, artists, and architects produced some of their greatest masterpieces in the era known as the Renaissance. Nearly 300 miles north, in the province of South Tyrol, architectural innovation emerged on a smaller scale, in the form of the Church of St. Magadelena in Moso.

The Church of St. Magadalena was commissioned by Countess Paola di Gonzaga, the wife of Marquis Leonardo di Gorizia. Born in 1440 in the House of Gorizia, Leonardo was born into a longstanding noble family, but inherited a ruined county due to his father’s habits as a drunk and a gambler.

Leonardo ruled his county alongside his brothers John II and Louis. Together, the brothers faced territory disputes with nearby counts and even Frederick III, the Holy Roman Emperor and the last of the House of Habsburg. The brothers ultimately found themselves defeated and had to cede their lands to Frederick. When John II died, Leonardo became the sole, and final, ruler of the House of Gorizia.

Leonardo would marry Paola di Gonzaga, whose family is credited with enhancing the culture and refinement of Mantua during the Renaissance, and ultimately transforming the city into another hub for the arts and the humanities. Leonardo and Paola’s marriage ultimately proved to be childless, but their legacy lived on in the Church of St. Magdalena.

In the coming years, the Church acquired many artistic additions to its interior. In 1520, the Church received a Gothic relief table designed by Michael Parth depicting the three wise men. By 1600, a paleo baroque altar was built inside. Today, the Church is open to visitors through the summer months.

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