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Biella- Cathedral of Biella

Foto Cathedral of Biella -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Cathedral of Biella -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Cathedral of Biella -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Cathedral of Biella -  of historical value  of artistic value
Foto Cathedral of Biella -  of historical value  of artistic value
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value in the Biella area: Cathedral of BiellaHISTORY
The origins of the Cathedral of Biella, whose actual name is St. Stephen's Cathedral, are very old, although the current appearance is dominated by seventeenth- and nineteenth-century elements.
The current church was built by enlarging the former Church of Santa Maria al Piano, built starting from 1402 on a project by Giovanni Borri, in turn replacing a small Romanesque church of the eleventh century. Of this fifteenth-century church remain some capitals and some impressive frescoes (see below).
In 1773, following the institution of the diocese of Biella in 1772, radical enlargement and renewal works of the church were started, works that gave it the current neo-gothic style and that were largely financed by the Savoy.
In the first phase (1772-1803), under the guidance of Ignazio Giulio first and of Nicola Mariniano Tarino later, the side aisles and the four chapels (interspersed with rectangular rooms), the terminal parts of the side aisles and the chapels corresponding to the terminal parts of the arms of the transept were built. The sacristy, the chapter house and the crypt (originally a burial place for bishops and canons) were also built.
Starting from 1784 Giovannino Gallieri and Pietro Fea realized the decoration of the apse, presbytery and dome.
In the second, nineteenth-century, phase the large pronaos designed by Felice Marandano was added to the façade, the side chapels were completed and the pictorial decoration was extended to the naves and the secondary chapels (by the painters Matteo Zerbino and Vittore Zelmini, already previously involved in the decoration of the church).
In 1806 the cathedral was dedicated to Saint Stefano Martyr, to whom already the ancient Church of Santo Stefano, demolished in 1873 to make room for the home for the parish priest, was dedicated. Only the XI century bell tower remained of that church, which became the bell tower of the cathedral.

Foto Cathedral of Biella - of artistic and historical value
Foto Cathedral of Biella - of artistic and historical value
Foto Cathedral of Biella - of artistic and historical value
Foto Cathedral of Biella - of artistic and historical value
Foto Cathedral of Biella - of artistic and historical value

Externally the church is dominated by the large pronaos, which substantially replaces the façade. The fact that the side walls (totally smooth and uniform if not for the presence of the bottom windows of the side chapels) are as high as the pronaos, makes the entire main body of the church even little recognizable as a church. Paying attention, especially if you move towards the sides, you can however see the jutting arms of the transept and the octagonal dome.

The bell tower of the cathedral is separated from the main body of the church and is actually part of the complex to the left of it, a complex that also includes the parish house. It is the only remaining part of the ancient Church of Santo Stefano and it is thought to have been built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with the cusp added at the end of the fourteenth century. Built in river pebbles with brick inserts it includes nine levels equipped on each side with two mullioned windows.

The interior of the Cathedral of Biella is dominated by the neogothic trompe l'oeil decoration, with simulated columns, stuccoes and embossed decorations on surfaces actually flat. The extension on almost all the flat surfaces of the interior makes the church unique in its kind.
Particular also the choice of the colors, with various shades of dark blue, dark green and brick red. In this way it becomes even more difficult for the visitor to recognize that it is an illusion and all the interior space tends, especially in the hours of less light, to expand, with the boundaries of the walls that are lost in the dark. The church, in fact, is not very bright. The main nave is illuminated only by circular windows placed at the top and only on one side. Other windows are on the bottom of the chapels, one in the presbytery and a pair in the dome drum. Note that when the windows are placed asymmetrically, on the other side there is either a fake one or, as in the case of the windows of the main nave, a tondo with a trompe l'oeil bas-relief.
In the center of the counter-façade there is, in a rich trompe l'oeil frame, a fresco depicting the martyrdom of Saint Stephen (Fig. 5).

All the chapels are closed by high railings.
Starting from the entrance you have to the left:
Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Agostino da Fango: It was completed only in 1957.
Chapel of the Madonna of Oropa: The neo-gothic altar is the work of Luigi Bottinelli and houses the body of Santa Gioconda Martire.
Chapel of the Epiphany: It is the left arm of the transept. It was completed in 1822. The fresco of the Epiphany (1838) is by Francesco Gonin.
On the right, you have, again starting from the entrance:
Chapel of the Carmine Virgin: It houses a green stone altar and an altarpiece by Stura.
Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: The altar is the work of Stefano Catella from Viggiù, while the statue is of Ferrogio and is from the end of the nineteenth century.
Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament: It is the right arm of the transept. The altar dates back to 1837 and is a work of Stefano Catella from Viggiù. The balustrade is from the eighteenth century and comes from the demolition of the church of San Carlo.

Then there are the two rooms at the head of the two aisles. On the left there is a passage space towards a side entrance. It also acts as Chapel of the Crucifix. In it hangs a splendid seventeenth-century crucifix in painted wood (Fig. 6), in which the hair is real and not sculpted. The Christ is represented as a lean and slender figure, with muscles and ribs in evidence. The face is pulled and emaciated, very realistic also because of the mouth that is slightly open to let glimpse the inside of the buccal cavity. The eyes half closed but without any serenity. The wound on the side is put in great evidence, with jagged margins and streaks of blood that drip from it. Overall a very dramatic representation and that in fact appears very modern, despite being a seventeenth-century sculpture.
At the head of the right aisle there is the Chapel of Santo Stefano, with an altar sculpted in 1697 by Pietro and Giovanni Battista Guglielmetti. In it several ancient detached frescoes placed on support are preserved. Among them a Sant'Antonio Abate, of the Master of the Christ of Sunday (see below) and a Blessed Panacea, shepherdess of Quarona (Sesia Valley) killed by the wicked stepmother in the fourteenth century.

(Fig. 2, 3) It comprehends a rectangular part and a deep chorus. The side walls of the first part are decorated with fake trompe l'oeil perspectives by Giovannino Gallieri. They also house two balconies, in one of which there is the organ. The balustrades of the two balconies are made up of the dossals (made in 1478) of the choir of the former Church of Santo Stefano.
The high altar was purchased in 1745 from the Sanctuary of Crea for the then destroyed St. Stephen's Church and brought to the cathedral in 1772.
In the same year also the stalls of the choir, sculpted in 1736-1737 by Giovanni Argentero of Andorno for the previous church, were brought into the cathedral.
In 1784 the fresco on the back wall depicting the Assumption was realized by Carlo Congrosso.
Worthy of note in the presbytery are also the bishop's throne, a work of Florentine origin dating back to 1431, and the carved wood pulpit of the late sixteenth century.

A paragraph on its own is then deserved by the small room (Gig.7, 8), placed at the left side entrance and where the oldest frescoes of the church, dating back to the previous building, are preserved.
On entering you can see on the left wall the Christ of Sunday, depicting the Savior pierced by numerous tools that cause him several painful and bleeding wounds. It was realized by an unknown artist, known, in fact, as "Master of the Christ of Sunday". This representation, spread in Italy and in Europe from the mid-fourteenth century to the beginning of the sixteenth century wanted to draw the faithful to the observance of the festive precept. As they were not "canonical" representations, these frescoes were often later destroyed. A Bishopric order in this direction was also issued in 1571 for the Christ of the Sunday of the Cathedral of Biella. Fortunately, this order was never executed!
In the central lunette of the wall there is a Madonna enthroned with Child, an example of a simple but highly expressive art, in which the lack of realism is compensated by the emotional intensity. On the right, then, a Trinity. On the wall opposite the entrance, finally, a detached fresco placed on a support representing San Defendente with the archangel.

The sacristy houses various paintings of 16th century value, in particular a Madonna with Child and Saints attributed to Gerolamo Giovenone.

Finally, it is necessary to mention the set of vestments and frontlets kept in the Cathedral of Biella, among which stands a 16th century vestment in red silk brocade with gold.

The baptistery is located to the left of the Cathedral of Biella, near the transept of this. Although there is no certainty about dating, the building is certainly very old, and the most likely period of construction is the eleventh century.
With a square plan, it has four semicircular apses surmounted by semi-domes (in this way, from the outside, the building at a superficial look may appear circular). In the middle an imposing octagonal drum with a small quadrangular lantern. On the tip of the lantern there is an iron cross with copper coating which is believed to be from the Carolingian period.
The interior, very simple and which was once almost certainly completely covered with frescoes, is almost completely bare today (Fig. 9,10). However, there is still a fresco from the thirteenth century (an Our Lady of the Milk with a Saint with the palm of martyrdom beside it, Fig. 10) and various frescoes of the fourteenth century by the Master of Oropa (so called because he painted the frescoes in the Sacellum of Sant'Eusebio in the Old Basilica of the Sanctuary of Oropa (a Magdalene, two Saints monks with their respective clients and part of a St. Peter).

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Piazza Duomo, 13900 Biella BI
Cathedral of Biella: Further pictures in the section Photography
Biella (Italy): Central nave of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Interior of the baptistery of the Cathedral of Biella, aka Baptistery of Saint John
Biella (Italy): Presbytery and left arm of transept of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Fresco of Madonna enthroned with a child in the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Choir of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Chapel of the crucifix in the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Cathedral of Biella - interior
Biella (Italy): Crucifix with real hair in the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Seats of the choir of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Central apse and main altar of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): The three naves of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Pulpit of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Presbytery and apse of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Interior of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Detail of the ceiling of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Altar and aps of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Detail of the interior of the Cathedral of Biella
Biella (Italy): Pigeon with the baptistery of the Cathedral of Biella in the background