The small Church of Santa Maria is part of the oldest nucleus of Mendrisio. The path leading to the church is paved with pebbles, a surviving and therefore precious trace of the original pavement. The little church smells as old as the alleys that you walk to reach it.
Of the first building, of Romanesque origin and later retouched, only the bell tower, raised in the seventeenth century, and perhaps the nave remain. The interior consists of a single small central nave, with the vault covered by frescoes painted by Angelo Sala depicting angels in flight. On the right side of the nave there is the small chapel dedicated to St. Charles, of great artistic value: extraordinary are the elliptical dome instead of circular as per tradition and the precious stuccoes of Baroque inspiration, with the typical motifs of shells, cornucopias and fruit.
In the niche of the altar, the beautiful statue of Agostino Silva depicts, in a lively and animated image, St. Charles Borromeo advancing blessing, dressed in solemn ceremonial robes, between two cherubs almost intimidated by such authoritative holiness. In the niche of the left wall, the tragic and almost expressionist Madonna del pianto deserves attention, with her face deformed by a pathetic grimace: it is an unusual image of the Virgin, who usually appears composed even in pain. On the high altar, in white stucco and gold leaf, an altarpiece depicting the Nativity of the Virgin.
Next to the church, thanks to archaeological excavations in 2002, important remains of mosaic floors belonging to a large Roman villa of the second or third century have been found.