With its almost 600 mt height, Monte Mesma (576 m) offers to his visitors an amazing view of Cusio. At the top of the hill there is the Franciscan convent bearing the same name, Mesma, and the church, which is dedicated to San Francesco. The parvis overlooks the Orta Lake with the island in the middle and the Monte Rosa standing out in the background.
Two different roads climb to Mesma from opposite slopes: a first one from the side of Ameno and Lortallo and the second one from Bolzano Novarese. Along both of them, there are the shrines of two Viae Crucis: they were built thanks to local benefactors; the frescoes were realized later. The convent rises on the remains of the ancient fortress of Mesima, which was the scene of conflicts between the Municipality of Novara and its Bishop in the 13th and 14th century. In 1358 the inhabitants of Ameno and Lortallo, who got tired of tirannies and raids, destroyed it. The present buildings of the convent and of the church stand therefore over the ancient foundations of the castrum of Mesima.
The idea of their building was of the two Franciscan brothers Bernardino and Giovanni Francesco Obicini from Ameno and was approved by the Bishop in 1619. The Capuchins of the convent in Orta obstructed the birth of the new convent by considering it useless and the Sacred Congregation in Rome had to intervene in order to make the works start again. In 1635, the walls of the church and of the convent with the realization of the tank for water provision were finished. In the following centuries, the convent was subject to structural and furniture changes.
Nowadays the complex of the convent includes two baroque cloisters and the church. The church, with a single nave, was object of important works in 1967. The big Crucifix hanging over the altar is a work of the milanese sculptor Antignati who realized it in 1712. Till 2005 visitors could admire on the parvis a monumental lime tree of the 18th Century which unfortunately died in spite of the soothing attentions. A wonderful olive-tree replaced the centuries-old lime tree. The complex of the convent is structured around two splendid cloisters of the 17th century. The first one, after the entrance, was meant as a shelter for the just arrived pilgrims. The second one, with his ancient well, water reserve of the convent, provides access to the so-called “sala dello stufone”, a hall with a big stove of dark green serpentine of Oira dating back to 1727. Next to this hall, there is the beautiful friars’ refectory.
The Piedmont Region created the Riserva Naturale del Monte Mesma, a natural reserve with the purpose to protect the religious complex and the rich vegetation. This last one keeps the rests of ancient grapevines cultivations, which are now replaced by chestnut woods.