Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels and St. Anthony of Padua

The chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels and St. Anthony of Padua was created to respond to the wish of Bartolomeo III Arese to continue celebrating religious rites in his own home, separated from the common people and the population of Cesano Maderno. Though it was a private structure, the chapel was subject to the authorities of the Church and, in conformity with the rules established by St. Carlo Borromeo, was open to the public. Because of this, the chapel was built, as it often occurred in the Lombard noble homes of the 16th and 17th centuries, next to the architectonic structure of the building, with the main entrance from the road and a private path which directly connected the gallery of the chapel with the first floor of the building. It was a particularly charming architectonic solution which was typical of the Series of Noble Villas, and also adopted in Villa Arconati in Bollate.


The Chapel in Cesano has an octagonal floorplan inscribed in a rectangle, with the longitudinal axis parallel to the road front. The entrance to the sacred building thus consisted in a narrow passage like a corridor, set perpendicularly to the façade of the building and liturgical area.
The internal walls were marked by gigantic plaster pillars that separate alternately, smooth peels surmounted by windows and niches crowned with small tribunes with balustrades equipped with wooden grills.
The decoration of the upper tribune, quite damaged by the passing of time and not perfectly preserved, is visible today only on the southern wall, where a “Pietà” is portrayed, flanked by St. Dominic di Guzman, and St. Anthony of Padua after whom the chapel is also named. The dedication of this chapel is probably related to the Iberian origin of the two saints (the first is Spanish and the second Portuguese) which further attests to the loyalty of the Arese family to the Spanish crown. The dedication, however, also reflects the strong private devotion of Bartolomeo Arese to the founder of the Order of the Preaching Friars commonly called Dominicans, and whose effigy was set at the side of the Arese Borromeo building facing the Shrine of Seveso.
Even more unique is the portrayal of the Risen Christ set in the vault. Jesus is shown in an ample blue vest, seated on the clouds and holds in his left hand a huge cross, while with his right hand, points to the wound in his ribs which is bleeding and the blood of which is gathered in a cloak. Over his head is the Dove of the Holy Spirit surmounted by the figure of God the Father, transforming the theme of the passion into the Trinitarian vision of man’s salvation, known by the name of “Throne of grace.” Thus at the height of the 17th century, the iconographic system of Cesano attested to the commitment of religion and the Catholic Reformation in facilitating the comprehension of the Trinitarian dogma, by using moving figurative representations with the correct labeling. It was an effort that had to remind the faithful of the concept of God as “one and threefold,” a splendour renewed in the 15th and 16th centuries that also saw the affirmation of heterogeneous reference models, such as those painted by Raffaello in the “Room of Signs” in 1509 and the late 15th-century painting achieved by Gil de Siloè for the Spanish Certosa of Miraflores in Burgos.
The chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels and St. Anthony of Padua was consecrated in 1668 and as a consequence seems to coincide with the dramatic death of the young Giulio II Arese. It was a period which could be linked also to the concepts of “vanitas” (the transience of human projects) and of “rusticitas” (the escape route offered by culture and faith) that permeated a great part of the decorations of the Arese Borromeo Building.
The paintings achieved in the tribune and on the vault of the oratory, besides the altar piece, are today produced in life-sized digital copies, and were accomplished by the brothers, Giovanni Stefano and Giuseppe Montalto, who had already worked on the numerous halls of the Cesano palace.