Casale Monferrato 1

Casale Monferrato

Casale Monferrato is a city rich in art and history, which rises almost entirely along the right bank of the Po River, at the foot of the Monferrato hills, a famous wine-growing region of which it is considered the historical capital.

The Cathedral is certainly worth a visit, consecrated in 1107 by Pope Paschal II on the site where in the 1st century AD. a temple dedicated to Jupiter already existed, as well as a look at the Paleologo Castle, an important example of fifteenth-century military architecture and the Church of San Domenico.

We also remember the presence in Casale of the ghetto neighborhood and its synagogue, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe; it is home to an important Jewish Museum which houses artefacts of a certain value, such as the Tablets of the Law, in gilded wood and dating back to the 18th century.

Casale Monferrato is about 17 kilometers from Borgo Ramezzana.

The first inhabitants of the Casale Monferrato area were the Ligurians, followed by the Celto-Gauls (to whose language many words still used today in the Piedmontese dialect belong), by the Romans and the Lombards, until the Christianization of the small village of Casale by the bishop of Asti, Sant'Evasio, who later became the patron saint of the city. After the power of the Aleramici, in 1305 Casale passed under the Paleologi of Byzantium, with whom it became the capital of the Marquisate of Monferrato and, in 1474, it finally became a city. In 1559 its control passed into the hands of the Gonzagas of Mantua, who undertook to fortify the town. During the 1600s it suffered numerous sieges by the French and Spanish, while at the beginning of the 1700s it lost its role as capital with the passage to the Savoys. In 1800 the city resisted the Austrian troops and, during the second war of independence, it was a highly strategic area; let's not forget that Casale is the thirteenth among the twenty-seven cities decorated with a gold medal as meritorious for all the highly patriotic actions carried out during the Risorgimento. At the end of the century the city became an industrial center of some importance, and continues to be so today.

Among the places of interest in Casale is the Duomo, the oldest monument in the city and one of the most important Romanesque-Lombard style cathedrals in Piedmont. Dedicated to the saints Evasio, Proietto, Natale and Lorenzo, it was consecrated in 1107 by Pope Pasquale II, on the place where in the 1st century AD. there already existed a temple dedicated to Jupiter and, subsequently, a church from the Liutprandean era dedicated to the martyr Lorenzo. Burnt down in 1215 during a war between neighboring cities, the Cathedral was completely restored in the mid-19th century by an architect from Vercelli, Count Edoardo Arborio Mella. The structure of the church is characterized by an asymmetrical gabled façade framed by two lateral bell towers. On the sides of the main entrance door there are two columns on which are placed the nineteenth-century copies of two statues depicting respectively the Lombard king Liutprand and queen Teodolinda. The narthex is also particular, presumably built by Saracen labor. The church has five naves. The presbytery presents in the vault and in the apse basin the wall paintings carried out by Costantino Sereno in 1860-61, in neo-Byzantine style

The Paleologi Castle is an important example of fifteenth-century military architecture, with an asymmetrical hexagonal plan and corner towers, surrounded by a moat. It was built by will of Giovanni Paleologo, Marquis of Monferrato, and has been, over the centuries, at the center of numerous war enterprises.

The Civic Tower or Torre di Santo Stefano, with a square plan and 60 meters high, is the most characteristic symbol of Casale. It was probably built in the 10th century as a defense tower for the city, up to the height of the brick part. It was only in 1510 that it was raised and embellished (having now lost its defensive role) by the marquises William IX Paleologus and his wife Anna d'Alençon, with the addition of the bell tower; the baroque dome, however, is from the Savoy era. On the tower we can admire two frescoes depicting the Casale coat of arms.

The Church of San Domenico, after the Duomo, is the most important church. It was the Paleologi Marquises who wanted its construction, following a vow made so that male children would be born; the church was finished in 1506 and entrusted to the care of the Preaching Fathers, or the Dominicans, who maintained it until 1802, the date of the Napoleonic suppression. The church is today divided into three naves with tall columns, as the fourth nave was abolished in 1700 to make the structure symmetrical. The facade is in terracotta; in the center we can observe a portal in local sandstone attributed to Matteo Sammicheli. Inside the church we find the tombs of some Paleologi and Gonzaga princes, and we can also admire several paintings of considerable size, among which we remember The Battle of the Albigensians by Pier Francesco Guala (late 17th - early 18th century). On the right side of the church we find a recently restored terracotta cloister.

Finally, a quick mention of the various historic buildings located in Casale: Palazzo di Anna d'Alençon, dating back to the 15th century; Palazzo Sannazzaro, baroque but of more ancient origins; Palazzo Treville, the most important palace in the city, in Piedmontese baroque style; Palazzo San Giorgio, today the seat of the municipal administration; Palazzo Magnocavallo, characterized by the staircase that wraps around two columns, thus creating a certain monumental effect; Palazzo Morelli, of which the elegant tower can be admired in particular; Casa Tornielli, the most important Gothic architecture in the city; finally, the Municipal Theater dating back to 1791, restored towards the end of the 19th century. In conclusion, we remember the Civic Museum (full of works by Monferrato artists such as Guala and Moncalvo) and the Bistolfi Plaster Cast Gallery, both located in the ancient convent of Santa Croce.

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