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Ascona, Oratorio dei Santi Fabiano e Sebastiano

The history of a disputed church living benefit

Svizzera, Cantone Ticino, ASCONA


(CH 1903) E   702835 N   112325 H   200.0
(WGS 84) Long.   8.770 Lat.   46.155
INTERESSE CONTESTUALE Archaeological, Historical, Architectural
ARCHAEOSITE   place of worship


The Chapel, the first records of which date back to the 9th century, stands next to a cemetery area that, judging by the complete lack of funerary objects, was used by a strongly Christianised community up until the fifteenth century. Tied to a living benefit established by the wealthy Duni family, it underwent a series of alterations, the most recent of which were executed in the early eighteenth century, when the original alignment of the building was rotated 180 degrees, the presbytery was raised and the ceiling was barrel-vaulted. The interior contains bas-relief sections that can be ascribed to the Carolingian era and fragments of frescoes from various epochs: fifteenth-century, Late Gothic (some of which have been attributed to the Seregnesi workshop), and Renaissance, depicting Crucifixion scenes and the figures of Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastian. The Church is currently used as the main office of the Ascona Parish Museum.


The 1979 excavation work conducted by UBC uncovered the six different construction phases marking the history of this building. The first two phases were in the Carolingian epoch, with the construction of a quadrangular nave chapel with a semi-circular apse and square-based altar (phase 1), followed by the addition of an open portico on the façade (phase 2). In the Romanesque period (phase 3) some alterations were made to the portico and to the exterior plastering. The transformation of the building into a trapezoid nave structure dates back to the fourteenth century (phase 4), when the quadrangular chancel and rectangular altar were also constructed. The portico was then incorporated into the nave, in the form of a bay, in the early seventeenth century (phase 5). During the final phase, from the mid sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries, the alignment of the church was rotated 180 degrees, while the presbytery was moved westward and raised to its current level.


The 1998 reorganisation of the Ascona Parochial Archives brought to light a number of parchments, one of which was the original copy, drawn up on 26 September 1451, of the testament of Allegranza Duni, establishing the Duni living benefit and endowing it with houses and lands lying between Ascona and Piano di Magadino. From 1690, the year marking the death of the last direct male heir of the Duni family, the living benefit was the subject of lengthy inheritance disputes, and on various occasions was transferred by court order to different local families (the most important of which was the Zezi of Ascona) up until the twentieth century, when it was incorporated into the Ascona Parish.
scala temporale periodi geologici


By car: from Locarno take the A13 towards Ascona and exit onto Via Locarno; continue along Viale Monte Verità, turn left onto Via Buonamano and continue to the car park, then walk to Via delle Cappelle (5 minutes). By bus: from Locarno Station take the Brissago bus and get off at Co’ di Camp, then walk to Via delle Cappelle (5 minutes). Opening times: April-October: Tuesday-Saturday: 10.00-12.00 / 20.00-22.00. During the winter period: open on request.



AA.VV, Oratorio dei santi Fabiano e Sebastiano, Museo Parrocchiale, Locarno, 2000;
AA.VV. Guida d’arte della Svizzera Italiana, Bellinzona, 2007;
AA.VV, Oratorio dei Santi Fabiano e Sebastiano ad Ascona, in Rivista Svizzera d’arte e d’archeologia, 68, 2011;


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Programma di cooperazione transfrontaliera Italia - Svizzera 2007 - 2013 Progetto cofinanziato dal Fondo Europeo Sviluppo Regionale (FESR)
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