This little church situated at the entry of the historical centre, where formerly there was one of the gates of the small town, is one of the most ancient monuments kept in the enclave.
It is really a fragment of the old church which originally was dedicated to Nazaro and Vittore, two Ambrosian martyrs; this oratory now faces on the way out of Campione.
The existence of the church is attested by the will that Totone, a rich Longobard trader, wrote in 777 in favour of the Monastery of Saint Ambrose in Milan. The church of the Saints Nazaro and Vittore was built in the VIII century on a small Longobardic necropolis; nowadays you only see the semicircular apse under the floor at the entry. This church is still registered under this name in a 875 decree, then under the name of Saint Peter in a 1148 document. For centuries the tiny but important chruch underwent many changes which are still under study because of some divergences about the intervention's dates.
In Middle Ages this church was enlarged thanks to the building of a Romanesque construction which substitutes the ancient apse; the connection point acts as a passing arch between the previous church turned into a long narthex and the present hall with a rectangular map.
In 1326 (when these works took place) Jacobus Sancto Petro, a famous person from Campione, opened a door even on the southern side. In the eighteen century S. Peter underwent other changes by remaking floors and ceilings while in the nineteenth century, being in need of space for the road to S. Vitale, part of the narthex wus removed. The latter is then pulled down towards the half of the twentieth century when the arch is stopped and the front is decorated with graffito. The restorations fulfilled by the architect D. Banaudi between 1994 and 1998 tried to recover and to point out the various phases of the history of this building.
The main front, at present, shows the romanesque semplicity which might be the passing arch between the narthex and the new St. Peter's church; some biceps of fresco show us that the intrados of this arch was decorated. The arch itself has been filled and a normally measured glass door permits to see the inside of the church. On the southern side, where there is the secular door, a stone reminds us that Jacobus de Sancti Petri, Consul ot Campione, carried out the work in 1326. The lily, which is not yet attested, is the likely sign of Jacobus' family, who is amost certainly the owner of St. Peter's family chapel.The building is typically lombard, made of grey stone with a sloping front. On the southern side you may recognize the face of St. Cristoforo, the sailor's patron, a fresco which occupied the whole wall; this image was clearly visible and reassuring for those who came from the South and had to travel by lake.
The background is a tiny building with one nave, with a rectangular apse and a cross-vault divided into four vaulting cells.
The frescoes, that wholly recover the walls and the vault and which are still fairly legible, have been recovered under the plaster during the last restoration.
The statue of the Virgin of the seventeenth century has been recently restored by an artist from Campione while the altar and the design of white marble have been carried out at the end of the XX Century by the architect who has restored the church.
The pictorial decoration which recovers all the surfaces is still in a fair state of preservation and can be ascribed to an anonymous lombard artist at the beginning ot the fourteenth century. Very likely the frescoes have been fulfilled, in some points, with the collaboration of less skilful pupils; on the whole the work is of a great pictorial value thanks to the beauty of some characters, to the chromatic refinement and to the careful study of some attitudes.
In the keystone is represented the lamb, the symbol of Christ's immolation, in the main vaulting cell there is the Christ ,,in mandorla" while in the other ones are portrayed the Evangelists with their symbols.
The iconografic design of the walls is on the other hand more complex and is developed on three registers. On the superior one are represented the histories of the Virgin's life. On the left you see Mary's birth, the beautiful Annunciation, the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi (scarcely legible), the presentation in the Temple (on the left of the central window), the Virgin's funeral (on the right of the central window) and the Coronation of the Virgin Mary seated on a beautiful chair with ,,cosmateschi" inlayings.
In the middle register is represented a precession of the Apostles who hold the Credo scrolls, they are figures with rough faces, but they are surrounded by more elaborate squares. The cycle of the Christ, which is fre-scoed without taking the exact chrono-logical sequence into account, consists of the Crucifixion, the Deposition and the Arrest of the Christ, painted on the nor-thern wall, in front of the side entrance. The cycle probably conti-nued in the counter-face with some biceps. The southern wall is occupied by individual scenes among which you easily recognize the Ascension of Elijah on the cart, Saint George who kills the dragon and St. Clare who is the most loved character in that epoch. The images of Saint Dominic and St. Catherine, who are on the central window, come later than the whole decoration of the church; they have been probably painted during the widening of the window itself. The proof of this following operation is given by the cut figures ot fhe fourteenth century's fresco (for example the St. Peter whose you only keep a big key).
The Burial - Places
Thanks to the last restoration, the entrance into St. Peter's oratory has been provided with a glass floor that enables to observe part of the ancient semicircular apse of the old early Middle Ages Church that already existed when Totone wrote his will (VIII century). This apse has been carefully fulfilled by using some stone slabs ,,from moltrasio" herring-bone. The building of this apse is clearly put on a graveyard area whose you can still see part of a burial place. Besides this grave, another one has been located under the present churchyard, precisely under the former early Middle Ages building. The graves have been discovered during the first construction, they have been cut but reassembled as long as, during the last restoration, a skeleton and several bones have been recovered. From the studies about this material you found that this well kept skeleton belonged to a healthy woman who reached a good old age and died probably because of a bone fracture on the right tibia. The lack of furnishings in the grave does not make possible to determine the woman's social class, but the epoch of the church ande the bone's sizes, too big for a mediterrenean character, make think to a Longobard woman.