It's a sweet little surprise on the tiny back streets of Modena, just off the Corso Canal Chiaro. San Barnabá, built in 1660 to replace a medieval original, doesn't promise much from the outside, but the interior is one of the best in Modena. The architect may have been the Este's famous stage designer Gaspare Vigarani, and though relatively small and intimate it certainly is theatrical.
The best part is the frescoed ceiling (begun 1699), with figures by Sigismondo Caula in a wonderful quadratura setting by Iacopo Antonio Mannini. These two carried on the tradition of Emilian quadratura spectaculars, teaming up just as their forebears Angelo Michele Colonna and Agostino Mitelli had done earlier. The theme is the life of St Francis di Paola, founder of the Friars Minim, to whom this church belonged.
Via Carteria 108
Hours weekdays 7.45am-12.30pm and 3-6.40pm
+39 059 236327
Images by: Artemilia, Jacqueline Poggi