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Church of the Annunciation

For centuries, Bannio was the capital of the Anzasca Valley.
It could have been no other way, because of the town's enviable position: safe from floods of the Anza River, which flows much lower in elevation, and the Olocchia, which leaves the town on a rocky spur covered with a thick, fertile fluvio-glacial soil. This is why the location was chosen by its first inhabitants. Furthermore, Bannio could control not only the Anzasca Valley, but also the mountain passes connecting to Val Sesia. Therefore, it was also a common destination for merchants and most had a military camp. Every community in the Anzasca Valley from Macugnaga to Calasca came to the Church of San Bartolomeo in Bannio, which made it the valley's religious centre at that time, managed by a few priests until new parishes were formed.
The 15th century marks an organisational and devotional awakening in the Anzasca Valley, with the construction of new churches and especially the creation of the Confraternities.
Members of these Confraternities were general, the best of the faithful, not only as dedicated church-goers who set a good example for others, but also - and almost always - better educated people with higher social status.
The Confraternity of St. Martha was founded in the Valle Anzasca, in the Parish Church of Bannio, at the end of the 1400s. Its place of reference was the Parish Church, and actually it was quite small. As a result, as we learn from document dated 14 May 1553, the Confraternity obtained permission to build an oratory next to church in order to be able to meet more comfortably with the many brothers and not disturb the parochial functions.
We should remember that these confraternities or companies or schools were also called "dei Disciplinati", and had a commitment to imposing "discipline" through flagellation, which meant stripping a person's back and beating them with a whip. Therefore, they wore a tunic of hemp fabric with a slit on the back and hood with a mask for sacred public processions in which they were obligated to participate to decorate parochial functions.
The Brothers organised themselves through the annual election of the Priors, Subpriors, Masters of Novices, etc. and were undoubtedly a spiritual wealth and an important body in the parish. The Confraternity was not without a social role.
The Confraternity and the Church of the Annunciation
Toward the mid-1500s, the idea of founding a new confraternity dedicated to the Annunciation came about in Bannio, precisely on 16 May 1565, when during the first meeting, the rules and statues of the brotherhood were laid out.
In the spring of 1566, work began on the construction of the oratory that was built next to the church, exactly where the current one is located.
Reports of the 1582 pastoral visit describe the first oratory of the Confraternity in this way: "Length 9m, width 4m, height 3.5 m". The dimensions sizes were very small compared to the current structure, and there was just enough room for 80 brothers.
When the Confraternity started to grow, the oratory quickly became inadequate and in 1590, they contacted the Vicar General to obtain authorisation to expand it.
Unfortunately, during the expansion works, the Brothers of the Annunciation lost the original document certifying the institution of the Confraternity itself. Urged by the Bishop to obtain a new document, they grasped the opportunity to increase their advantages by attaching themselves to a more prestigious Confraternity.
The opportunity came when the colony of Banniese immigrants in Rome suggested to the Brothers that they the Archconfraternity of the Gonfalone of Rome, which was the most important and ancient and enjoyed great privileges.
They obtained the aggregation in 1675, and the Confraternity of the Annunziata in Bannio added to its name the title of the Confalone.
This was when the symbol of the Archconfraternity of the Roman Confalone appeared in the oratory: a red and white cross on a light blue field.
In 1731, the oratory was also equipped with a bell tower with 3 bells.
In the early 1700s, the oratory was completely redone to assume the size and shape of the current building, which is shown by the date 1715 on the façade. The interior was decorated by the Banniese painter Gerolamo Ferroni, who painted his frescoes from 1715 to 1736.
The two confraternities, dell'Annunziate and Santa Marta, did not have peaceful relations because there were often conflicts about who had precedence in religious functions and processions. On 16 June, 1759, the Bishop abolished the two confraternities by uniting them in the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (Santissimo Sacramento).
The Oratory of the Annunciation, as well as that of Santa Marta, was maintained and continues to be the property of the Parish of Bannio.
Inside, we find an altar dedicated to the Annunciation, whereas in the two side chapels, we find San Giovanni Nepomucemo (protector of the ancient Banniese family Testone) on one side, and St. Bonaventure, il Cottolengo and Don Bosco on the other side.