Fresco in the Church of the Madonna della Difesa - solo in inglese

Fresco by Italian Canadian artist Guido Nincheri in the apse of the Church of the Madonna della Difesa in Montreal, QC.

The church is located in Montreal's Little Italy and was built by Italian immigrants to Montreal in the early 1900s. It commemorates the apparition of the Madonna in La Difesa, in Casacalenda, Molise, Italy. The church was designed by Roch Montbriant and is Romanesque in style. The interior of the church was decorated by Guido Nincheri. It was consecrated in 1919.

The fresco in the apse of the church features Benito Mussolini on horseback and commemorates his signing of the Latern Treaty in 1929, which made the Vatican a sovereign state and enshrined Catholicism as Italy’s state religion. The fresco was painted by Nincheri, with assistance from other artists such as Guido Casini, in the early 1930s, with the grand unveiling taking place on September 24, 1933.

Once Italy declared war on the Allies, Nincheri’s fresco became politically suspect and he was arrested and interned. Guido Casini was also interned. The fresco was covered with a tarp for the duration of the war. Following Nincheri’s arrest, his wife Giulia tried to convince Canadian authorities that the church’s curate, Father Manfriani, forced Nincheri to include Mussolini in the fresco. According to Giulia, Nincheri would have risked losing the contract if he had not complied. She even provided original sketches of the fresco that did not include the dictator.

Nincheri was released from Camp Petawawa on October 22, 1940. After his release he continued to work on religious art and created more than one hundred frescoes and stained glass during his career. Guido Nincheri has been described as one of the most important religious artists in Canadian history.