The first 'vele'
The restoration process
Based on the knowledge acquired to date, nothing allows us to suppose that the route of the processions in the 16th and 18th centuries was much different to the one that is followed today, taking into account the changes implemented in the layout of the town. Briefly, they left from the Church of St. John, at the northern end of the town, and travelled along the main street (Via Stella and Via San Damiano) up to the parish church, which is in the current Piazza del Ponte with the façade perpendicular to the tower, which still exists. Then they crossed the broad bridge on the Morèe, which acted as square behind the church, and entered the current Corso Bello, moving towards the other large door at the southern end in Piazzetta Borella. Almost certainly they proceeded to the Church of St. Francisc of the Capuchin convent, perhaps travelling along the ancient road to Coldrerio, which could be the current Vicolo Odescalchi, since it leads to the front of the church.
On the way back they might have performed a loop before Piazzetta Borella due to the presence of streets that could be travelled, while the current route has unquestionably been followed since the late 1800s, when the carriage roads were opened. They moved along the broad Via Gismonda, Largo Bernasconi, the square in front of the Church of St. Francis, Via Baroffio and again back to the square, where they necessarily had to follow the route up to Piazza del Ponte.
Certainly either during the forward phase or on the return, the ancient route included the Church of St. Mary Nascente, since the procession of Holy Thursday was organised by the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, which was based here since 1585. But the Servants of Mary deviated it to Piazzetta Fontana and Via Stella in 1792, to better “appreciate” the new “transparents” and to avoid the cold air that often descends even today from Via Selvetta, with the excuse that “it put out the candles.”
From about 1870, in order to “touch” the new parish church that was built on the hill above the old square, the forward route performed a loop climbing along Via Bosia, Via Pretorio Vecchio and Via Nobili Rusca, descending along the “new” Via Croci (in the 1800s it was only an alley) up to Piazzetta Fontana (which was also enlarged in the 1900s) to make a 90° turn into Via San Damiano, in the direction of the square.