Region: Lombardy - Province: Pavia
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Located on the banks of the river Ticino, 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 in accordance with 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 Lombards and Franks.
Having become an independent Commune, thanks to its economic prosperity, Pavia could lay the foundations for a lively urban development and the flourishing of Romanesque art, which led to the creation of numberless places of worship as well as of the powerful walls. Among churches, reference should be made to St. Michael's church, which is a 12th-century reconstruction of the Palatine Basilica; it is a cruciform building with several bays and sandstone walls, which is regarded as the masterpiece of the Romanesque in Lombardy. The church is also known as the place where 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. Building of the Visconti Castle started soon after the family had become the lords of the city. The Castle was both an armed stronghold and a lordly residence; this dual nature, military and princely at the same time, is mirrored on the one hand by the powerful quadrangular structure and, on the other hand, by the elegance of 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 original design was by Bernardo da Venezia, an architect who had already been entrusted with building the Pavia castle, together with Giacomo da Campione - who had worked on the Cathedral of Milan. 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. The church was designed by Bernardo da Venezia and Giacomo da Campione, but the original project was amended by Cristoforo Solari; it has a small cloister on a side, used for standard ceremonies. There are additionally 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. From an artistic viewpoint, reference should be made to the façade of the church, whose upper part was never finished, as it represents a sort of open-air museum of sculpture. Its decorations, which were the work of some of the most important Lombard artists of Renaissance such as Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, Cristoforo and Antonio Mantegazza, and Benedetto Brioso, are unequalled. 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 modelling 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.
The historical centre of Pavia is still intact, even though it has gone through significant urban transformations. It fulfils the authenticity condition as also related to the presence of excellently preserved monuments.
All the monuments are legally protected by national legislation (Legislative decree no. 42/2004, containing the "Code for Cultural Heritage and Landscape") as well as by administrative measures adopted by the Region and the Municipality; additionally, management mechanisms can ensure their preservation. In particular, the Chartreuse of Pavia is a State's property that is managed directly by the Superintendant's Office for Architectural Heritage of Milan.
The historical centre of Pavia shows features that are comparable with those of other cities in the Padan area, however it is remarkable on account of the outstanding value of its monuments (St. Michael's church, Cathedral, Visconti Castle) which bear a significant testimony to the periods when they were built.The Chartreuse of Pavia, together with the Chartreuse of St. Martin's in Naples, is the most significant example of this kind of monastic architecture in Italy and Europe.