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The ancient Hospitalis of Stabio and the Antiquarium

The architectonic complex of the ancient Hospitalis in Stabio, strategically located in the hamlet of Ospedaletto along the ancient Via Regina (today via Somalvico) includes the church of Santa Maria Maddalena with its famous late Gothic bell tower, the master’s building and the small adjacent building hosting nowdays the Antiquarium museum, the lakeside garden and the surronding walls.

The main building consists of a massive two floors block with an elegant portal stone on the façade facing the lake and a porch of pillars on the inner courtyard. The other building is lower and consists of two floors with an “L” plan. The lake front has a plaster with traces of fake brick decoration while the interior facade has a masonry with elements made of Moltrasio stone.

Thanks to the restoration work promoted by a territorial development project, the AQST “Magistri Comacini”, this building has been converted into the Antiquarium which contains interesting archaeological remains found during excavations on the Comacina island. The Antiquarium also offers the necessary support for visits to the island and to the lake territory.

On the opposite side of the court under the porch there are a plaque with the inscription about the juspatronato Giovio, a high relief with zoomorphic figures placed over a niche, where once there was a statue of St. Mary Magdalene, and a fragment of Christian sarcophagus.

The ancient Hospitalis in Stabio was born as a structure dedicated to the reception of the poor and pilgrims, but the name “Stabio” may indicate the previous existence of a travellers’ inn.

The earliest records date back to a will in 1169 in which both the church of Santa Maria Maddalena and the hospital are mentioned and the documents from the 12th century reminding of the complex as “Hospitalis de Insula” or “Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae”.

Initially the economic management of the structure was entrusted to a deacon and then to members from the Giovio family, whose juspatronatus was officially recognized by Pope Alexander VI in 1496. A plaque dated October 1st, 1506 states that at the time the hospitalis was administered by Gabriele Giovio who enlarged the building and placed a statue representing St. Mary Magdalene.
At that time the structure included several buildings arranged around a small courtyard: the house inhabited by the Giovio family, a building with rooms dedicated to the management of agricultural activities and the small church of Santa Maria Maddalena.

At the beginning of the 20th century the “Hospitalis” was transformed into the “Opera Pia Giovio”.

The complex houses now the municipal police offices and the Antiquarium museum, featuring archaeological relics found on the Comacina island.

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