ITINERARIES IN PAVIA
MEDIEVAL AND ROMANESQUE PAVIA
(11th ‑ 13th centuries)
The Romanesque walking itinerary begins in the Castle Archeological Museums where a rich range of sculptures from St. Stephen’s and St. Mary’s churches is preserved. They were the old Twin Cathedrals, demolished to leave space for the present one. In addition, we can find sculptures from St. John’s church demolished to widen Borromeo College in the 19th cent. Here we also have the opportunity to see from a short distance the portals, the façades’ multicoloured decorations and the sculptures with their unfinished particulars.
From the Castle we can reach the nearby St. Peter’s church (12th cent.) whose asymmetrical façade still bears the mark of an old portico. As in every remarkable Romanesque church in Pavia, we can see in the middle of its façade an unusual cross‑shaped window between two “eyes”. The nave’s vaults, here as in St. Michael’s, were rebuilt at the end of the 15th cent. with a new technique: in this church maybe to replace a wooden golden ceiling, while in St. Michael’s because the too heavy Romanesque vaults began to fall down. St. Peter’s crypt was remade at the beginning of 1900 during the restoration works followed after a century of decay. In the monument behind the altar, masterpiece of Gothic sculpture, is buried Saint Augustine. In the crypt, in a modern shrine, are preserved Severinus Boethius’ bones and at its back there is a well whose water is told to have ailing properties. As in other sacred places, underground waters influenced the choice where to build a sanctuary. In the nave right to the stairs leading to the altar, we can find King Liutprand’s buring place. He was a wise Longobard legislator.
Once crossed the wide Viale Matteotti, go straight on to Piazza Petrarca then turn left on Via Malaspina. Here we can find the ruins of St. Zeno church’s apses, where was once buried Petrarch’s nephew who died young. In the house next to it one of the church’s aisles is still preserved. St. John’s church, concealed in the inner part of a block, shows a beautiful Romanesque steeple, some side‑rooms with traces of Medieval paintings and a crypt with an extremely fascinating irregular plan, columns from Roman monuments and 11th cent. frescoes (Christ in Glory, The Baptism of Jesus, Saints). This church, wanted by the Longobard Queen Gundiberga, Theudelinda’s daughter, was built in the same place where there used to be one of the Roman Thermal Baths. It also had a women’s Baptistery.
In Piazza della Vittoria (Piazza Grande) the restoration of St. Mary’s Walterii’s church has been recently finished. It is a 11th cent. church which still bears the name of its founder; it is rich in frescoes and it is presently used to host concerts and exhibitions. At the other end of the square, we can see the Broletto: the 12th ‑ 13th cent.s Town Hall. Its façade was heavily restored in 1928, but the inner yard is worth being seen.
Walking along Via Omodeo and flanking the Civic Tower’s ruins (the 11th cent. tower fallen down on 17th March 1989), we arrive in Piazza Duomo the old “ Atrio di San Siro” where there once were two Twin Cathedrals whose rests we have already seen in the Castle’s Museums.
Then, choosing the narrow and sloping Via dei Liguri, we walk through the old Jewish ghetto once called Rovelecca. At the end of it, we turn right on Via Cardinal Maffi and from this place we can see the wonderful foreshortening of St. Theodore church’s apses and its base of the cupola (13th cent.). This church is like a small jewel. It is all made of bricks with a three‑floor base of the cupola and a 16th cent. small lantern based on the top of it. Inside it is rich in frescoes dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries among which the famous view of Pavia taken from a great height (1522) showing the town in detail. The crypt, wide as the whole church, is interesting for its capitals with grotesque images among which several two‑tailed mermaids stand out.
Going back on Via Maffi and keeping straight on, we arrive to St. Michael’s church, the most important and typical example of Romanesque architecture in Pavia. Besides visiting the church inside, it is worth walking around the outside walls, among big vaults and ruins of old towers, just to taste its outward part and its fitting in the town context.
Don’t forget to have a look at the Vicarage’s yard from Piazzetta Azzani (which still bears its Medieval look on a whole side and frames the mighty transept’s front) to see from a short distance the magnificent apse, with the signs of the sandstone corrosion. From Piazzetta Azzani we can reach Vicolo San Colombano . San Colombano’s small church (13th cent.) has been recently restored as a private residence. Then, walking toward Via Porta, we turn left between the two Romanesque towers built as ornaments to private residences: don’t forget that Pavia was called the “one‑hundred‑towers town” (but they were more than one hundred!). On the right we can see Santa Mostiola’s Nunnery, desacreted in the 18th cent. and then home of a Youth Institution no more working nowadays. In order to better taste its Romanesque remains, turn right on Via Ressi. We will be able to see through an open garden door the octagonal base of the cupola, the apses’ ruins and what is left of the nunnery. This garden is uncorrectly known as “the Longobard kings’ garden”. We end our itinerary at St. Primo’s church which, with its restored façade and remade inside, stores precious paintings of the 14th ‑ 15th centuries.
PAVIA IN THE VISCONTI AND SFORZA TIMES
(14th ‑ 15th centuries)
Also this itinerary begins in the Visconti Castle as it was the symbol of more than two centuries dominion of the Visconti and Sforza families (from the second half of the 14th to the first half of the 16th cent.).
At this purpose, we can see inside the castle the frescoes and paintings rich collection and a wooden model of the Cathedral.
From this starting point, go straight on to Strada Nuova, the old town Kardo reopened and restored by the Visconti, which from that time took the present name. Then, keeping straight on in order to reach Piazza Grande (Piazza della Vittoria) we pass the University, settled by Lodovico il Moro in the previous Azzone Visconti’s residence of which it still keeps some traces. Once in the square, we can see the “Red House” or “Diversi’s House” built in 1376 ‑ 1383 by Nicolino de Diversi who was “maestro delle entrate” (financial officer) at the Visconti court.
From Piazza della Vittoria we can reach St. Mary of the Carmelites’ church whose project is strictly entwined with the Castle one, both for historical and stylistic reasons. Then, arriving in Corso Cavour we can look upward to discover the 15th cent. Cristopher Bottigella’s Tower by the UPIM Department Store. Inside the opposite building it is still preserved a wide hall with hanging terracotta capitals that was part of Bottigella’s Residence then enclosed in the Senatore’s Monastery.
We now approach the Cathedral (Duomo), whose construction began in 1488 by will of Cardinal Ascanius Sforza. In the nearby Via Menocchio we can visit the 15th cent. Theodota’s Nunnery enclosed in the present Episcopal Seminary. Going down the flight of steps we are now in Via Regina Adelaide where the house built by will of Bishop Grassi at the beginning of the 15th cent., stands out for its restoration conceived to achieve a stylistic integration. Walking down Via Porta Pertusi, we can reach the remains of the Eustachi’s Residence with its beautiful portal. Also this building, owned by the town municipality, was restored by architect E. C. Aschieri in 1965. The Eustachi were a fishermen family from which was born Pasino degli Eustachi Captain of the Ducal Fleet which defeated the Venetians in the naval battle on the river Po. In Via dei Liguri, going back toward the Cathedral just before reaching St. Maieul’s Cloister, we can still see a fine Gothic portal with the emblem of Christ and two monograms.
The Covered Bridge over the river Ticino is a bad copy of the one built in the middle of the 14th cent. and destroyed in 1948 because of the damages of the 1944 bombs. The present bridge is a faint copy of the original, with a concrete structure covered by bricks.
Between Via Alboino and Via Porta Nuova there is a quite big residence of the Visconti Times which was in origin larger and also enclosed a wider yard. The restored remaining part is still charming and looks onto a garden. It also has interesting rooms of the 18th cent. which can’t be visited as they are presently part of a private residence.
In St. Primo’s church we can see the Sforza times nave with interesting frescoes and a marble statue of the saint (14th cent.).
On the nearby Via Bernardo Sacco stands out the Lonati Residence’s portal with a memorial tablet of 1456. The inside part has been remade during our century. In Piazza Borromeo there is the former Sacco College (the present St. Margherita Hospital).
In Via Foscolo it is important to visit the Cornazzani Residence. This house is a beautiful building of the 15th cent. still preserving some interesting frescoes; it is also called “Foscolo’s House”.
We close our itinerary with a visit to Bottigella’s Residence in Corso Mazzini by Piazza del Municipio (the present Gandini College),Saint Mary’s church (planned by Bramante), Cavagna’s Residence in Via Defendente Sacchi (recently restored) and Castiglioni College with its really interesting chapel covered with frescoes.
Outside the old town walls there are several interesting building to visit such as: St. Salvatore’s church (St. Mauro), St. Lanfranc’s small cloister, Mirabello Castle, Caselle Farmhouse (Zerbolò), Belvedere Farmhouse (nearby Scarpone area on the road to Broni‑Stradella) and, of course, the Carthusian Monastery.