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Soncino (Cremona): Soncino

Foto Soncino
Foto Soncino
Foto Soncino
Foto Soncino
Foto Soncino
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): SoncinoSoncino is a village of approx. 8000 inhabitants 60 km east of Milan. It stands on the banks of the river Oglio in an area full of fountains and springs. It is of very ancient origins, since its foundation is attributed to the Goths, in the early Middle Ages, although the area was already populated in Roman times and even earlier, as evidenced by the discovery of the remains of two Roman villas and even older finds, which back to the Celts and even to the Neolithic.

In the Middle Ages Soncino was under the influence of Bergamo until 1118, then passed under the control of Cremona, which placed a military garrison there. In 1306 the Cremoneses were driven out of the city.
For a short time, from 1311-1313, Soncino enjoyed the privileged status of a city controlled directly by the Empire.
With the ascent to the imperial throne of Ludwig of Bavaria, Soncino passed under the control of his vicar of Milan, Azzone Visconti. In the Visconti period (1385-1454) Soncino became the most important defense stronghold between Milan and Venice along the border line of the Oglio river.
In 1488 the first complete Hebrew Bible was printed in Soncino by the family of Jewish printers who then took the name Soncino from the city where they had begun their publishing activity.
With the arrival of the Spaniards (1536) a period of decadence begins. The begins by Charles V in favor of the Marquises Stampa limits the number of privileges enjoyed in the past centuries from Soncino. The allocation of numerous Spanish military troops also contributes to the impoverishment of the territory and the progressive and constant loss of economic vitality.
Between the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, the complete demilitarization took place first by the Austrians with the demolition of the four medieval gates and then by Napoleon. These last events determined the end of the independent history of the town.

Soncino is really rich in treasures of art and history, so that one day may not be enough to see them all. There are also various museums.
In particular we want to mention:

  • The Sforza fortress (Fig. 1 and large photo): Its construction began in 1473 and ended just two years later. It was built on the area previously occupied by a convent of nuns, replacing an older fortress placed in a different position. The new fortress was built so as to incorporate a section of the city walls, including one of the towers. In 1877 the last Marquess of Soncino, Massimiliano Stampa, donated it, by now ruin, to the municipality. In 1883 the architect Luca Beltrami, the same who designed the restoration of the Sforza Castle of Milan directed a creative restoration of the fortress, with the aim of bringing it back to its features at the time of the Sforza. In reality, however, it was only since 1960 that the fortress began to be promoted as a location for events and as a tourist attraction.
    In fact, we must bear in mind that much of what you see is not authentic, even if this does not detract from the charm of the building, also used as the setting of various films.
    Currently the fortress is visible in almost all its parts. Inside there are the small Historical Museum of the Fighters, with military finds from the Garibaldian campaigns and the two world wars, and the Aquaria Archaeological Museum, in what was the only stately hall of a complex that has always had an exquisitely military function. The museum houses numerous archaeological finds from various periods starting from the Neolithic.

  • Church of Santa Maria Assunta (Fig. 3): It is the oldest churches of the Cremonese diocese. Built in 828, the church was rebuilt in 1150 and renovated in 1280. Between the end of the 16th and early 17th centuries, the building was remodeled with extension towards the east and the construction of the side chapels to the south. On the project of the architect Carlo Maciachini, the church was further extended to the east and renovated with a polygonal apse and octagonal dome (1883-1888). On the cusp of the Romanesque bell tower was placed the copper statue designed by Maciachini and built by Carlo Riva (1888). Curiously in it the Madonna is endowed with a black dress!
    Although of great aesthetic impact (the interior of the polygonal apse is strongly reminiscent, in the wide use of electric blue and the width of the gilding, the Famedio of the Monumental Cemetary of Milan, another work of Maciachini) the church must unfortunately be considered completely distorted from the historical-artistic point of view, since the interiors have now nothing more to do with the original Romanesque structure. More preserved, although from the Baroque period, various side chapels. Relevant, inside the Church of S. Maria Assunta, are a fresco depicting the Arian trinity, a painting by Mathias Stormer and two wooden sculptures.

  • Church of San Giacomo (Fig. 2): Built in the middle of the twelfth century and ruled by the Augustinian Canons of San Cataldo of Cremona for three years (1361-1364) and then by the Dominicans (1428-1798) who built the adjacent convent complex of San Giacomo. The Romanesque structure was reformed between 1595 and 1630 to give it the current Baroque appearance. It is due to the Augustinian Canons, the erection of the heptagonal Camanile, probably unique in Italy.
    The interior of the church is beautifully frescoed in Baroque style and also the façade is clearly baroque. The presence of a crypt under the raised presbytery, however, makes evident the older origin of the church.
    The church is also associated with the beautiful Cloister of St. James the Apostle, with Gothic arcades.
    The crypt is called of the Holy Crown because it houses a fragment of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. In the lunettes under its ceiling there are stations of the Via Crucis coming from an oratory in Viadana and seventeenth-century works by Domenico Savi.
    The church houses various valuable paintings. Also worthy of note is the terracotta sculptural group in the first chapel on the right, depicting the Mourning the dead Christ and dating back to the period between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
    Church of San Giacomo in more detail

  • Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Fig. 5): It represents an authentic jewel of Renaissance art, able to amaze the visitor who, behind a sober and austere brick façade, does not await to find inside almost all the surfaces occupied by wonderful multicolored frescoes.
    Its erection began in 1501 and in 1528 it was consecrated to the presence of Francesco II Sforza who financed its decoration.
    Comprehending a single room with barrel vault, the church has five chapels on each side. The presbytery, with a cross vault frescoed with the symbols of the evangelists, is separated from the choir by a high partition, to divide the part dedicated to the people from that dedicated to the clergy.
    The main authors of the wonderful frescoes are Giulio Campi, Francesco Scanzi, Francesco and Bernardino Carminati. It is due to the Soncino plasticator G. Antonio Pezzoni the rich clay frame that embellishes the interior.
    Among the various frescoes we must mention in particular the spectacular Last Judgment in the counter-façade and the Assumption of Mary in a blaze of angels on the great arch.
    Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in more detail

  • Town Hall and Civic Tower: The Civic Tower is located in front of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. Built in 1128, it was initially 31.50m high (later raised up to the current 41.80m). Behind it there is the Town Hall. According to tradition, Ezzelino da Romano was imprisoned in the palace, after he was defeated at the battle of Cassano on 27 September 1259 by soncinese Giovanni Turcazzano.

  • Museum of Printing: Tradition has always indicated in a typical fourteenth-century tower structure placed in the district of North-East of the village, once inhabited by Jews and where also the Jewish cemetery and probably the synagogue were located, the house of the Jewish printers "Soncino".
    The Pro Loco, in order to valorize an historical event that places the town among the few in Italy and Europe with printing houses of the 1400s, has succeeded in making it the seat of a small museum. The inauguration took place in 1988, on the occasion of the celebrations of the V Centenary of the printing of the First Complete Hebrew Bible.

  • Church and Tinazzo Park: The naturalistic and monumental complex of Tinazzo is located on the northern side of the ancient road that connected Cremona to Bergamo. The Park was mentioned starting from the early 16th century, but it was in the 18th century that the systematic organization was started according to modern criteria with the introduction of essences extraneous to the local tradition.
    The park also houses a small church inside which there are many ancient frescoes and above the altar a polyptych of 1520.

  • Circle of the walls and underground structures: The medieval walls of the town are almost entirely preserved and deserve a walk along them. Note that on the northern side there are six towers with a circular plan at regular intervals. In contrast, the southern part of the walls does not have defensive towers.
    On some parts of the walls, more recent civil buildings have been inserted. Interesting underground structures that were part of the fifteenth-century military defense such as tunnels and catacombs are being more and more recovered.

  • In the village there are several ancient noble palaces, often characterized by terracotta decorations, and various water mills, some active until not many years ago.


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