Thursday, 06 September 2012 10:17

The collegiate of Santa Maria Assunta

Written by  matta
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The collegiate church of Castel’Arquato is located in the homonymous medieval village in the province of Piacenza. It dated to the eighth century, and more specifically 756-758 years, according with some objects found during excavations. Some evidences suggests that a powerful Lombard lord called Magno commissioned the church. Written documents, in fact, includes information on the rebuilding of the town (according to the structure of ancient medieval villages), and the enlargement of the Collegiate. However, they do not mention the date of the church's construction. It is supposed, therefore, that his baptismal church function goes back to ancient times. Following a violent earthquake, the structure suffered obvious damage, and was completely rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1122: the chronology of the church's origins is therefore problematic. We know that in the XII-XIII centuries, the bell tower located on one of the side aisles and the Portale del Paradiso (the Gate of Paradise) were built. The statues that adorn the pulpit represent the evangelists, Jeremiah and the Annunciation, and they are attributed the school of Piacenza of 1170. Also the cloister, the access leading to it, the sculptures located on either side of the main altar and minor altars in the church and also the decorated and carved capitals date to the twelfth century. Entering the central nave leaves a deeply impression of awe for the presence in the apse area of an austere and monumental crucifix, who dates from the thirteenth century. Other key elements were added in later periods: according to some witnesses, the physiognomy of the structure changed significantly after the mid-fourteenth century, when the nerve center of the city shifted from the spiritual center to the administrative center with the building of the nearby Palazzo del Podesta. Around 1630 a chapel, dedicated to the saint patron of the city San Giuseppe, was built in baroque style on the foundations of an old one. It was in the nineteenth century that the church had his major changes: the interior was fully coated, pillars and capitals included; single-lancet windows were all replaced by simple rectangular windows; a vault framed by stucco covered the truss roof. The frescoes were preserved and among them those executed by Giacomo Guidotti representing the marriage of Mary and the birth of Jesus and an anonymous fresco in which appears the Trinity. In 1730, one of the side walls was demolished to make way for three new chapels. In 1889, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera discovered fifteenth century frescoes in the Santa Caterina chapel and reconstructed all of them after a long restoration work. In the early twentieth century, the church underwent other changes: for example between 1911 and 1913 the rebuilding of the loggia of San Giovanni and the fourth apse and between 1917 and 1919 the external restoration of the minor apses. In the same years, the main façade was also modified, closing a window on the left side and replacing the existing rose window with a mullioned window. In 1923, some of the supporting arches were rebuilt and in 1927, the choir windows were restored. In 1935, the roof was removed to make way for the original ceiling.


The church has the shape and simple lines that are typical of Romanesque architecture. The baptistery is flanked by three apses, the latter being the more interesting because of the wide and low splayed windows as we can also see in the main apse. The lateral portal is a carved portal named Portico del Paradiso (Portico of Paradise): it is now the main entrance gate. It has a splay consisting in columns that end in an archivolt with its lunette. Leaves decorations adorn the capitals of the archivolt. Painted panels decorate the interior of the archivolt while two telamons with sculptures symbolizing the personification of Usury and Avarice support the architrave. The fourteenth century cloister is located on the church's right side and gives access to the Collegiate’s museum that preserves various Romanesque remains. The church is a basilica with three naves. Two portals allow penetrating inside, one on the front and one on the side. The seven columns dividing the aisles are impressive: they are nearly a meter in diameter. The decoration of the capitals is rather composite: their cloverleaf shape is dominated by semi-capitals carved with floral or zoomorphic symbols topped by a rectangular abacus with spiral decorations. The ambo sculptures depicting the Annunciation are of considerable artistic prestige.

Additional Info

  • Address: Piazza del Municipio, 3 29014 Castell'Arquato PC
  • Province:
  • Phone: +39
  • Opening Days and Time: Lunedì: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00 Martedì: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00 Mercoledì: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00 Giovedì: Chiuso Venerdì: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00 Sabato: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00 Domenica: 10.00-12.00 / 14.00-18.00
  • Guided Tour: Per visite guidate contattare l'associazione Rabisch (Tel: +39 338 6357868 - Si offrono visite per gruppi di studenti, adulti e disabili. Guide disponibili in lingue straniere.
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