The first 'vele'
The restoration process
A letter of 1792 unquestionably witnesses that Brother Antonio Maria Baroffio stored the “transparents” (probably the first “doors” that had yet to be completed) in the rooms of the convent of the Servants of Mary by the Church of St. John, and we can say that at least these have always remained there since then. We presume that the ones related to the convent and to the church were also stored there, and perhaps even all the lamps of Good Friday's procession. They were initially at most about twenty, precisely the ones that accompanied the statues of the Blessed Virgin and of the dead Christ. As the tradition spread and progressed, the friars are supposed to have offered hospitality in their storeroom also to large paintings that the owners could not easily preserve in their homes, and also to those owned by the Municipality. The smaller ones were most likely simply put away by the owners in a storeroom or an attic, as the last “private” owners do today. When the convent was closed down in 1852, the entire heritage, including the transparents, was moved to the Municipality, which probably was already in charge of installing them along the streets. Many people in the town still recall that the coexistence of the delicate paintings with the lively school students at the convent was difficult, with repeated requests for a dedicated, well insulated room. This became urgent as a result of a dangerous infestation of mould a few decades ago. Finally, in 2004 the Municipality renovated and fitted out the entire ground floor of one wing of the former convent with dedicated shelves for the large paintings, while the many lamps (there are about 300 now) are distributed in well closed rooms in a nearby building, which is also the current site of the restoration laboratory. Since 1982, when the Art Museum was established in the premises of the convent, the population has yearly requested, to no avail, the municipality to keep its promise of fitting out at least one room as a permanent exhibition of the “transparents,” especially after the second phase of the restoration, which doubled the space available for the museum. They were seen exhibited in the Museum at most three times, the last was in 2012. Besides this, it is only the generosity of the parish that allows the exhibition in church of some of the originals, also guaranteeing continuous surveillance during the evenings of the processions.