San Giovanni Battista is one of the oldest churches on the Lario and is the mother church of Varenna.
The church of St. John the Baptist is a religious building, probably dating back to the 11th century, located in Varenna, in the province of Lecco, in the central Piazza San Giorgio, on the opposite side from the church of San Giorgio. According to some, it would have served in the past as the original seat of the parish of Varenna.
Dating from the 11th century, it preserves inside successive 16th-century frescoes decorating the apse and triumphal arch; on the south-facing wall, proceeding from west to east, traces of three depictions of saints can be seen: Christopher with the infant Jesus, George on horseback, and John the Baptist. A large Epiphany unfolds on the northern wall.
Also preserved here is an altarpiece triptych depicting the Madonna and Child in the center, St. George on the right, and St. Martin the Bishop on the left.
Finally, the Romanesque bell tower is built facing the lake, as was the custom in ancient times, while the bells are those of 1730 donated by the Serponti nobles.
Already attested in 1143, the church was enlarged in 1151, as recorded on an 18th-century plaque. In the Liber Notitiae Sanctorum Mediolani written in the 14th century by Goffredo da Bussero, the building was reported to have been used as a warehouse.
To this day it is still unclear whether or not this church constituted the original seat of the parish of Varenna.
Today the building consists of a rectangular hall covered with a wooden truss roof and closed on the eastern side by an apse. The interior is decorated with frescoes, restored by Enzo Vicentini, depicting on the left the Adoration of the Magi, on the right St. John the Baptist with other saints and St. George slaying the dragon, on the corner with the western wall St. Christopher and in the apse basin the Redeemer between the Virgin and the Baptist. The paintings also include a torn fresco from the Serponti house depicting the Madonna and Child made in 1612 at the behest of Giovanni Maria Serponti.
St. John the Baptist is depicted in a fragmentary fresco located on the southern wall from the 14th century. Another pictorial fragment depicting St. George piercing the dragon to save the princess, of whom only parts of the robes can be seen, and, possibly, an Adoration of the Magi on the northern wall date to the same author and period.