The City of Pavia.
The city of Pavia was founded on the left bank of the River Ticino more than two thousand years ago. Nowadays, almost 75,000 people live in this city, only 35 km from Milan. Pavia was founded in the 5th century B.C. as a Gaul-Ligurian village; it became a Roman colony in 89 B.C. and was called Ticinum. The city was organised according to the typical structure of a Roman castrum with streets meeting at 90-degree angles - still to be appreciated in the structure of the modern city. Thanks to its favourable strategic position, controlling the area crossed by the rivers Ticino and Po, Pavia played a major political and economic role also during the late Roman empire and the early Middle Ages, when it took on the name of Papia and retained its strength and prestige as a capital city under the Ostrogoths and, subsequently, with Langobards. Having become an independent Comune, thanks to its economic prosperity, Pavia could lay the foundations for a lively urban development and the flourishing of Romanesque art.
Among churches, one the most important is St. Michael’s church, regarded as the masterpiece of the Romanesque in Lombardy.
The church is also known as the place where the Emperor Frederick the Red-Bearded was crowned in 1155, a few years after the church had been built. Under the Seigniory of the Visconti family, Pavia became the focus of one of the most elegant courts of the Italian Renaissance. The Visconti Castle was built as an armed stronghold and a lordly residence as well. The Castle has a powerful quadrangular structure and a very nice courtyard, characterized by the elegance of its architectural components and the airy porticoes and loggias. It was Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402) who founded the Chartreuse of Pavia, in 1396 - one of the most renowned monuments of Renaissance art in Italy.
Works on the building, which stands isolated on the flatlands surrounding Pavia, continued from the end of the 14th century up to the mid-16th century and marked - together with the contemporary Cathedral of Milan - the artistic evolution in Lombardy from Gothic to Renaissance style.
The area reserved for the monks started being built in the early 15th century, including cells, chapter house, scriptorium, dining hall, and vestry.
The building was completed in 1542 and was also used as a “mausoleum” for the Visconti dynasty. There are also a larger cloister, containing small house-like cells where the monks lived, worked and prayed absolutely alone; guest rooms (the so-called “Duke’s Palace”, currently accommodating the Museum of the Chartreuse); the dormitory; a pharmacy; cellars, and storerooms for grains. The whole complex is surrounded by fields, lawns and vineyards, which once were attended to by the monks. Inside, the church hosts valuable paintings, sculptures and decorations such as the paintings and frescoes by Ambrogio Bergognone, Bernardino Luini, Daniele Crespi and Cerano, the stained-glass windows, the famous ivory polyptic by Baldassare degli Embriachi, the marble tombs of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d’Este (Cristoforo Solari) and Gian Galeazzo Sforza (Gian Cristoforo Romano).
During the Sforza seigniory in Pavia, as well as major public buildings such as the first core of the University, the Cathedral started being built. The building of the latter monument covered one of the longest time spans ever in the history of Italian architecture and was especially complex; great masters such as Bramante and Leonardo gave their contribution to it. Works started in 1488 under the architectural direction of Cristoforo Rocchi, who was subsequently replaced by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo and Gian Giacomo Dolcebuono.
The dome of the imposing building, which Ascanio Sforza wanted to be built in the centre of the city, is the third largest in Italy - only the dome of St. Peter’s and the Cathedral of Florence being larger. The imposing plan of the church, in which an octagon-shaped core covered by the dome is merged with a longitudinal body consisting of a nave and two aisles, is unanimously attributed to Donato Bramante, who also designed the crypt (completed in 1492) probably modeling it after some Roman monuments.
The importance attained by this building led also Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Leonardo to Pavia, in 1490; Leonardo’s many drawings and sketches for composite buildings with a central core show many similarities with the plan of the Cathedral at Pavia. When the city fell under Spanish political influence, it was strengthened by ramparts and bulwarks that made it impregnable. In the early 18th century Pavia became a part of the Hapsburg domains; building activities newly flamed up and the city was embellished by late-Baroque and Neoclassical palaces. Nowadays tourists and visitors get impressed by Pavia’s historical and artistic heritage: the Castello Visconteo with its Park, the Romanesque church of S. Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, dating back to the 12th century preserves the bodies of the two philosophers St. Augustine and Severino Boezio and of the Longobard king Liutprand.
The main theatre,Teatro Fraschini (1771-1773) and the buildings of the central part of the University officially founded in 1361 by the Visconti family, are both built along Strada Nuova (the ancient Roman road running north to south).
The Crypt of S. Eusebio (11thC) still connected with a 7thC Arian cathedral and three Medieval Towers are in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, right behind the main University entrance. The City Hall Palazzo Mezzabarba was built in the 18thC in Corso Mazzini (the Roman road running east to west), by G.A.Veneroni. Piazza della Vittoria is the heart of Pavia where the Broletto (12th 13thC) residence of the Municipality up to 1875 is set. A lot of churches make Pavia artistically beautiful: the Gothic church of S. Maria Del Carmine, the late-Romanesque S. Teodoro and, not far from the river the 12th C S. Michele. The Ponte Coperto (covered bridge) is the reconstruction of the fourteenth-century bridge that was destroyed during the last war bombing and it leads to Borgo Ticino. The Romanesque churches of S. Lanfranco and S. Lazzaro end this worthy visiting list.