Bergamo had two cathedrals for many centuries, the basilica of Saint Alexander ans then basilica of Saint Vincent. In the 15th century the Sint Vinvent was re-build and transformed into a cathedral.
In 1561 the Venetians destroyed the cathedral of St. Alexander, so St. Vincent's became the sole Bergamo cathedral, but it lasted till 1697 till the Pope made this official.
In 1689 the cathedral was reconstructed to designs of Carlo Fontana.
The last major renovation dates from 1889, the Neo-classical west front was added in that year.
Although we saw the cathedral on our walking tour of Città Alta, I did not have a chance to go inside. Once I did, on my later explorations with Chris, I found that despite its rather plain exterior (in comparison at least to the neighbouring and ornate Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Colleoni Chapel), it was well worth a closer look.
There has been a cathedral here since around the 6th century, although the present building was designed in the 15th century and remodelled several times over the years, with the current façade being added in 1886. Some years ago, when a new heating system was being installed, excavations revealed tombs and a section of wall with frescos dating back to the 13th century. This turned out to be the remains of a Romanesque basilica dedicated to San Vincenzo, which predated the present Duomo. Following this discovery the entire area under the cathedral was excavated, and it was established that not only was the Romanesque building of considerable size, following the boundary of the present Duomo, but that another much older Paleo-Christian church previously stood on the same site. From what I saw, excavations are still in progress, so it’s possible that more interesting discoveries will be made.
From the 9th to the 16th centuries there were in fact two cathedrals in Bergamo – the one on this site dedicated to San Vincenzo and another which stood on the site believed to be that of the martyrdom of Sant’Allesandro, to whom it was dedicated. In 1561 the Venetians demolished the latter for reasons of military expediency, leaving San Vincenzo’s as the sole survivor. In August 1697 it was agreed that the name of this cathedral c should be changed to that of the patron saint of the city and its local martyr, Sant’Alessandro.
But back to the present-day and to the interior of the cathedral. The art work considered of most note is that behind the altar, a painting of the Martyrdom of Saint John by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (we have previously seen an example of his work in San Salvatore). The ceiling of the dome is also very impressive, with at its centre a painting of Sant'Alessandro supported by angels, ready to receive the crown of holiness.
Chris was more taken however by the exhibits in a room to the left-hand side of the altar, relating to Pope John XXIII. The latter was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and was a native of Bergamo. He was educated in the local seminary and served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years. He is commemorated not only here in the cathedral but also in Città Bassa where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been named Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII in his honour. Here, in the chapel of St. Vincent and Blessed John XXIII, are his relics and a number of objects used by him, including a chalice, mitre and items of jewellery. The mitre (see photo five) is ornamented with three gold crowns studded with pearls and rubies, which represent the two symbols of Sant'Alessandro, lilies and roses.
Next on our tour was a look at the neighbouring Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
The pretty octagonal building that sits opposite the cathedral on the Piazza Duomo, next to the Colleoni Chapel, is Il Battistero, the Baptistery. Although you can’t go inside (it is only opened by appointment or for special events – for instance, you can get married here I believe, presumably if you know the right people!), it is worthy of some attention, both for its attractive appearance and its interesting history.
It was built in 1340 by Giovanni da Campione, who was also responsible for the two porches of the Santa Maria Maggiore, and was originally placed inside the basilica. However it was dismantled in 1680 to be reconstructed in a courtyard at the side of the Duomo, and in 1898 was moved to its present site next to the Capella Colleoni.
My photos show the upper part of the original Giovanni da Campione building. The statues at the eight corners date from the 14th century and represent the virtues. During the building’s last move to this spot a base was added to give it greater height.
Continuing our tour from here we went, not back to the Piazza Vecchia as I had expected, but into a building I had not even noticed, the Aula della Curia.
I'm afraid that I didn't enjoy visiting the Cathedral quite as much as the Basillica of Maria Maggiore, I think I'd been so awe struck by the former, that this was completely overshadowed!. However, it's well worth visiting.
The Cathedral is dedicated to Sant'Alessandro, who is the Patron Saint of Bergamo
The Cathedral was built on the site of an ancient 11th Century Cathedral. It was re-designed in 1459 by Filarete, who designed the single nave building. In 1688, Carlo Fontana took over his work,adding the presbytery and choir stalls. The Duomo was completed by Crivelli in the mid- 19th century.
Its facade dating back to 1886 was designed by Angelo Bonicelli.
I liked the airy feel to the Cathedral, with its white marble and the cupolas with their pastel coloured paintings.
Things to look out for in the Cathedral;
'Virgin Mary and Child' by G B Moroni (1576)
Chapel of the Crucifixion, which was enlarged in 1866
The Baroque Altar dedicated to the 3 Saints - Fermo, Rustico and Procolo by Karl Sanz (1695) and the carved Episcopal throne by Andrea Fantoni.
On the apse wall there are 7 paintings, of special interest is ' The Martyrdom of Saint John' by G B Tiepolo.
Open Monday - Saturday 1000 - 1200 and 1500 - 1730
The Cupola of the Cathedral of San Vincenzo was designed and built by Carlo Fontana at the end of the 16th century.
At the top of the cupola stands the golden statue of San Alessandro, the patron Saint of the city of Bergamo.
Piazzetta del Duomo used to be the ancient heart of the city, with all probability, The Forum Urbis of the Romans, and in a medieval epoch, the Piazza dell'Arengo. This was a place for celebrating the solemn feasts, for proclaming the bans and for holding both political and religious functions. In fact the Cathedral of San Vicenzo, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Palazzo del Comune all faced this piazzetta.
Even before the year 1100, the Cathedral of San Vicenzo was the oldest in the city built at the same time as that of Sant' Alessandro.
At the beginning it was the place for Aryan cult and remained a Cathedral even after the Longobards had converted to Catholicism.
The cathedral was modified at the end of 15th century by Filarete, then at the end of 16th century when Carlo Fontana had constructed a cupola in the centre of the transept, and had lenghtened the apse up to Via Mario Lupo. The present look of the Cathedral dates back from 1886.
The Cathedral was closed for restauration at the moment of my visit in May 2005.
A pity as I believe it must be beautiful inside with more frescos to admire.
I am sure it will leave me something to visit on a next trip. I hope to find it re-opened by then.
Sant'Alessandro's, the patronage of the city has his
statue on top of the roof of the Cathedral doom.
Alexander of Bergamo:
-Date of celebration 26 August
-Based on a found manuscript he is supposed to have been Centurion of the Theaban legion.
- He died around 287 or 297 when Christians were presecuted from the army. He was one of the victims of this crusade against Christianity.
The very first cathedral of Bergamo was dedicated to him.
This is the Duomo. It has a late 19th century facade, and it has a 17th century interior. There are so many old buildings in this part of Bergamo, it's just amazing!
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