The Cathedral of Pavia is dedicated to Santo Stefano and Santa Maria Assunta and features the third largest dome in Italy. Although both Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante worked on its design, the church was not completed until the 19th century. In 1989, the bell tower collapsed, killing four people.
Address: Piazza del Duomo – Pavia. Phone: +39 0382386511. Opening hours: From 07.30 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 19.00. Entrance: Free of charge.
History and description
Construction of the Cattedrale di Santo Stefano e Santa Maria Assunta began in 1488. The commissioner was Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. He had the church built on the site where the two neighboring churches Santo Stefano Basilica and the Santa Maria del Popolo Basilica used to be.
Local architects Giovanni Antonio Amadeo and Cristoforo Rocchi probably had some help from Bramante. This is especially evident in the apse and crypt, both of which were completed by the end of the 15th century.
The original project was soon expanded, but in the 2nd half of the 16th century work had to be interrupted. Despite advice from Leonardo da Vinci, it proved too difficult to build the drum and the dome.
After this, the cathedral remained unchanged for a long time, with parts of the two old Romanesque churches remaining alongside the newer central part.
Only in the 2nd half of the 18th century did they manage to complete the drum. More than a century later, the dome was also completed, using a double iron truss to support the spherical cap. Carlo Maciachini, who was also going to take care of the façade some years later, was responsible for its competion between 1885 and 1887.
What to see
The paintings on the inside of the façade were made by Cerano and by Daniele Crespi.
The fresco depicting the “Holy Family”, which can be seen in the left nave, dates from the 16th century.
The wooden pulpit against a buttress under the dome depicts events in the life of San Siro. This saint was the first bishop of the city and also its patron saint.
Above the wooden choir in the presbytery, the Sante Spine (“Holy Spines”) are being preserved. These are splinters from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. At Pentecost, these relics are carried in a procession through the city.
Piazza del Duomo attracions
To the left of the Duomo itself, one can still see a stump of the city tower built in the 11th century that collapsed in 1989.
The building that occupies almost the entire side opposite the church is the Bishop’s Palace, built between 1560 and 1591.
The equestrian statue in the middle of the square is known as the Regisole. The original statue, which probably depicted Emperor Septimius Severus and dates back to Roman times, was destroyed in 1796 during the Jacobin uprisings. In the mid-1930s, the sculptor Francesco Messina made a new version, which he based on old reproductions.