The Cathedral of Cosenza is located in the historic centre of town. It was built in the 11th century and, like many other buildings in town, was destroyed by an earthquake in the later half of the century. It was consecrated by Emperor Frederick II in 1222. The Cathedral has gone through a few transformations through it's years, including baroque and neo-gothic, until it later got restored in the early to mid 1900s.
The Duomo is another peaceful place to visit in Cosenza. It's not like a big city cathedral that is packed full with tourists. It is absolutely silent inside, and I only saw one man there, praying. Sometimes I find them harder to appreciate when they are full of people talking loudly, flashes going off. This one did not have any of that, and I enjoyed it.
Entrance is free.
This castle is the work of the Saracens, originally built sometime in the 10th century. It went through several additions and changes over the years, including the addition of the octagonal tower by Emperor Frederick II of in 1239 and a portico, new entrance, stairs and cloister in the courtyard under Archbishop Capece Galeota, among many others. Unfortunately, the castle was severely damaged by three earthquakes in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some restoration projects have been carried out.
The castle is an interesting, quiet place to visit. You don't need to spend much time here to see everything, maybe only 15 minutes. However, there is a gorgeous view of the town from the courtyard and I could spend much longer sitting and looking out. (The picture on my intro is taken from the castle) It is open until 7:30 pm and admission is free.
The castle stands on the top of Pancrazio Hill. It was built by the Saracens on the ruins of the ancient Brutium fortress. Ruggero II of Altavilla, king of Sicily, improved the whole structure in 1130 but in 1184 a strong earthquake damaged the castle again.
Then, in 1239, the Swabian emperor Frederic II added the castle two octagonal towers. He loved number "8" and built similar towers all over the southern Italy including my favorite – Castel del Monte. The Castle or what left from it is in Svevo-Normanno (Norman – Swabian) style with the towers in hexagonal plan. The Angevins built the upper floor and a chapel, while later the Aragonese used the Castle as a mint, as an armory and then as a prison. Another terrible earthquake in 1638 and the new technologies in weapons and defense decreed the end of the castle's greatness. During the 18th century the archbishop of Cosenza built a seminary in the castle, while in the 19th century it became a prison.
Today the interior of the castle is bare, but you will enjoy the superb view over Cosenza and the surrounding mountains.
First monastery on the spot was built by the Benedictines in the 11th century. It was destroyed completely by the earthquake of 1148. In 1217 Pietro Cathin built the San Francesco D'Assisi upon the ruins of the Benedictine monastery. In 1656 the monks rebuilt the church again to repair the damages caused by the earthquake of 1638.
The monastery closed in 1866 and the Minor friars came back in 1912. The churche’s portal and a few other parts still bear witness to the original Gothic structure. The church has a Latin cross shape with three naves; the wooden carved high altar dates back to the 18th century. The marble altar of the Immacolata's chapel was carved by Salvatore da Taverna in 1777. Behind this altar there is the ancient apse of' the church which dates back to the 13th century and has little columns, capitals and cross-vaults cut out of our local stone in l400. In this ancient apse you can also admire a wooden crucifix of 1300 and a wooden choir of 1505. Santa Caterina's Chapel was built by the Migliarese family.
In 1530 this family gave it to Santa Caterina d'AIessandria's Brotherhood. On the walls of the chapel visitors can see the pictures showing the life of Santa Caterina, painted by the Flemish painter Wilhelm Borremans in 1705. Try to spend a few moments in the monastery’s serene cloisters.
The cathedral was built in the middle of the 11th century, but destroyed by the earthquake of 1184. The archbishop Luca Campano rebuilt it in Gothic-Cistercian (or Provençal Gothic) style. Consecrated on the occasion of Swabian emperor Frederick II's visit to the city in 1222. During the 18th century the Neapolitan archbishop Michele Capece Galeota restored the church covering the whole interior with Baroque-style decorations, while in the first half of the 19th century another Neapolitan archbishop, Domenico Narni Mancinelli, changed even the facade into Baroque-style. In the last years of the 19th century the archbishop Camillo Sorgente restored the cathedral giving it again the simple character of medieval architecture.
The interior - a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. In the north transept visitors can see the beautifully carved tomb of Isabella of Aragon, who died in Cosenza in 1271 while returning from a crusade with her husband Philip III, King of France (you can see him kneeling beside the queen). This beautiful sculpture was carved out of local stone by a French artist in 1271.
In the right aisle there is the ancient sarcophagus of Meleagro which contains the mortal remains of Arrigo, one of the sons of Federico II (the rebellion one). Nearby is a Roman sarcophagus carved with a hunting scene. Fort the faithful, the cathedral's most venerated item lies in the first chapel on the left - a copy of a 13th century Byzantine icon, the Madonna del Pilerio , which was once carried around the country during times of trouble (like plague). The Madonna del Pilerio's Chapel and the one of the brotherhood "DeIl'orazione e morte" still keep their Baroque style.
From the cathedral’s square turn right and take the steps up Via del Seggio. It brings you shortly to the convent of San Francesco d'Assisi (St Francis d’Assisi). The church itself, a part of restored 13th century convent, has paintings by Wilhelm Borremans in the St Catherine chapel on the right of the nave. An early example of monastic architecture, St Francis d’Assisi become renowned through southern Italy. The beautiful cloisters with their superbly carved capitals, were built in 1217. Behind the cloisters of the church you can find the local museum Museo delle Belle Arti (Tues-Sun 9am-1pm & 3-7pm; free).
From St Francis, climb up Corso Vittorio Emanuele, following it until you reach the little track on the right leading to the impressive Castello ( Mon-Fri 9am - 12.30pm, 4-6pm, free), another Frederick II construction reduced to its present condition by a series of earthquakes. The interior is bare, but you will enjoy the superb view over Cosenza and the surrounding mountains.
If you have enough time from the castle can also go to reach the Cosenza's most elegant square, Piazza XV Marzo on the southern edge of the Old Town. South of the square, visitors find Villa Vecchia, much needed shady public garden. On the same square is the Accademia Cosentina which houses the Museo Civico (Mon & Thurs 9am-1pm & 3.30-6pm, Tues, Wed & Fri 9am-1pm; free), local one-room historic museum.
Corso Telesio brings you back to the bridge.
Arriving by train, you can take a bus (every 20min) from the train station, tickets from inside the station at the bar. Alternatively you can walk (20 – 30min, 2km). The Old Town Tour takes 2 – hours.
From the train station square turn left on Piazza Matteotti followed by Piazza Bruzi with the Palazzo Municipale. Immediately after it begins the oldest and most interesting part of the town, which starts from Piazza Campanella named after Calabria's famous son, Tommaso Campanella. Here the Busento River divides the modern part of the city from that ancient one that rises on the slopes of the Pancrazio Hill. The Martire (Martyrs' ) bridge brings visitors to the left side of the river. From Piazza Valdesi on the far side of the bridge, lovely Corso Telesio curves up into the maze of the old town vicoletty (alleys). The road is named after Cosenza's most famous son, Bernardino Telesio, the 16th century philosopher and major influence on the other great Calabrian philosopher, Tommaso Campanella (now you understand why the square and the street are so close). Corso Telesio is the main drag of ancient Cosenza, lined with old palaces with amazing balconies, fine portals, and old artisan workshops. Halfway up the slopes of the Pancrazio Hill, stands Cosenza's impressive Duomo (the cathedral) surrounded by the old palazzi . Built in the 1140, destroyed by an earthquake it was rebuilt again in 1184. In the Duomo there is the grave of the Queen Isabella d'Aragona, wife of the French King Philip III.
In the Treasury of the adjacent Archbishops Palace is the Byzantine Cross of the emperor Frederick II. Sit on the Corso Telesio at the Gran Caffe` Renzelli and watch Cosenza life go by or admire the cathedral. Or, instead visit small but friendly tourist information office behind the duomo in Via Toscano (Mon-Thurs 9am-1pm & 4-6pm, Fri 9am-1pm).