DescriptionThis oratory was once the chapel in the San Giovanni hospice for the poor and sick. The right façade is particularly interesting now that restoration work has uncovered the traces of an old Romanesque structure: a small bricked-up entrance surmounted by a lunette, pensile arches decorated with the heads of goats and cows and two filiform single-light windows interrupting the heavy walls. The interior is decorated in the Neoclassical style. The end wall features two beautifully executed plaster statues from the late 1700s depicting the Blessed Angelo Porro and St. Filippo Benizzi, both in the severe black habits of the Serviti order.
The Baroque altar incorporates a lunette dating back to roughly 1350 with a Madonna and Child in the centre, St. John the Baptist on the right and a saint believed to be the martyr St. Catherine of Alexandria on the left. This fresco has been studied by many experts. Giuseppe Martinola was struck by its “vivid colours, the elegant hands and the restrained naturalism of the Child”; Carla Travi has praised “the special technique using thin and thick strokes that give the figures volume and brightness”; Piero Bianconi particularly liked that of St. Catherine, who “raises with great passion her young full face, delicately painted in pink and framed with thick blond hair”.
As for the creator of these frescoes, Michele Boskovits first attributed them to Giovanni da Milano in 1971, and since then other critics have confirmed this. A successful student of Giotto, this artist also painted the cycle of Madonna frescoes in the church of Santa Croce in Florence.