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Mortara is a town and comune in the region of Lombardy, Italymarker. It lies between the Agognamarker and Terdoppio rivers, in the historical district known as Lomellina, a rice-growing agricultural center. It received the honorary title of city with a royal decree in 1706.


The town has Roman origins proved by several archaeological discoveries and its first name was Pulchra Silva. After the bloody battle during which Charlemagne defeated the Longobard King Desiderius in 773, its name changed. In the Orlando Furioso (second canto) it can be read:
Quivi cader de’ Longobardi tanti,

e tanta fu quivi la strage loro,

che ‘l loco de la pugna gli abitanti

Mortara dapoi sempre nominoro.

Ludovico Ariosto, I cinque canti - canto II, 88

It prospered as a hunting place of pastimes thanks to Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who decreed unsuccessfully to change its name into Beldiporto (1384). It was transformed by Charles V into a fortress called «The Star» and in 1658 was besieged by the French-Piedmontese Army led by Francesco d'Este. It was restituted to Spain and remained a Spanish possession until 1706, when it was annexed to the Savoy Kingdom. In the same year it became the capital of the Province of Lomellina. On March 21, 1849 it was the site of a bloody Austro-Piedmontese battle just before the defeat of Novara.

Mortara is now an agricultural center of national importance for its rice production, but it is also an interesting and tasty gastronomical destination thanks to the goose sausages and products.

Main sights

  • San Lorenzo. The Gothic basilica, characterized by brick facade, was built by Bartolino da Novara between 1375 and 1380 and renovated in 1840 and in 1916. The two tondoes outside the main entrance are both 15th century works. In the pilaster strips the portrait of SS. Albin, Amìcus and Amelius are 19th century copies from a 15th century polyptych by Paolo da Brescia, a work at first in the Church of S. Albin and now conserved in the Savoy Picture-gallery of Turin. The Church has several artistìc masterpieces inside. From the right of the entrance on there are: in the first span a 15th century fresco representing the Virgin with Her Child; in the second span The Lady between St. Roch and St. Sebastian, a panel from 1524 which some critics attribute to Gaudenzio Ferrari. In the middle of the first chapel is housed a panel by Bernardo Lanino, dated 1578 and representing The Lady of the Rosary crowned by 15 tablets by the same author illustrating the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. The niche is completed by four canvasses by G. C. Procaccini representing the Archangel and Our Lady of the Annunciation, The Escape from Egypt and The rest of the Holy Family, in addition to a Glory in Paradise attributed to Camillo Procaccini. In the second chapel, above the altar, is the great table by G. B. Crespi called il Cerano, signed and date 1610 and representing the Crucifixion with Ss. Ambrogius, Laurentius and Mary the Magdalen. Left aisle, first chapel - Here we can find a magnificent wooden Christmas crib with about 80 low relieved figures (beginnings of the fifteenth century) by Lorenzo da Mortara. Beside it there are «St. Charles in prayer» and «St. Ann with the Virgin» attributed to Morazzone. Second chapel - There is the fifteenth-century polyptych on a six-parted table, a work by A. De Munini.

  • S. Croce. It was founded in 1080, outside the walls of the village under the patronage of Pope Gregorius VII, and re-built inside the city walls by following the designs of Pellegrino Tibaldi in 1596. The heavy repairs during the Sixties modified the facade a lot and also the inside (which was aisleless and with side chapels) lose the originality of the design by Tibaldi. In the pilaster strip dividing the first chapel from the second ond the left there is a footprint of the Redeemer, made of Carrara marble, and, according to the tradition, it is a relic dating back to the period of the Crusades, but it is likely more recent. In the third chapel on the right there is a remarkable Adoration of the Magi painted by Bernardino Lanino in 1533, and recently restored. In the fourth chapel we can see Saint Michael while bringing the domain of Guglielmo Caccia called Il Moncalvo down to earth. In the counterfacade there are two watercolours on canvas of 1545 representing Our Lady of the Annunciation and Archangel Gabriel, attributed to the Vigevanese painter Bernardino Ferrari. In the fourth chapel on the left are housed a The Lady with Child and Saints by the 16th century Venetian school and a 15th century fresco representing Saint Augustin.

  • S. Maria del Campo, located about two kilometres West of Mortara, near che street to Novara. This Church stands at the end of a little square in the middle of the village drawing its name from it. Its existence has been evidenced since 1145: the hints of the original building are in the column surrounding the dome and in some parts of the masonry. The facade is reminiscent of the Lombard-Gothic outlines of the «hall churches» that are typical of Lomellina. In the internai wide niches, which have also the function of chapels, there are frescoes belonging to different centuries, among which is a Lady of the Rosary with Ss. Roch and Dominicus (15th century), and a damaged Pietà attributed to Cerano. Also present is the fresco functioning as an altar-pieces of the high altar and representing a Glory of Angels-Musicians, attributed to Cerano. In the chief chapel are two statues, representing St. Dominicus and St. John the Baptist, attributed to Cerano. Opposite the Church is the ancient community oven (now in bad condition) where the people living in the little vìllage used to bake the bread.

  • Sant'Albino, one of the Christian «mother-churches» of the 5th century Lomellina, re-used by Charlemagne as a burial ground for the numerous soldiers who fell in the battle between the Lombard and the Frank armies, on October 12, 773. Among the casualties there were also two paladins of Charlemagne's, Amelius of Alvernia and Amicus from Beyre, whose death inspired a lot of French chansons de geste. In 774 the famous abbott Alkwin Albin added a canonical college to the Church. During the Middle Ages Sant'Albino was a compulsory halting-piace for the pìlgrims going from Britain and France to Rome. The architectural style developed from an originai mingling of the Romanesque style, clearly recognizable in the apse, with the Renaissance style, to be found in the facade and in the nave. Against the southern side of the portico of the facade, is a building, perhaps a part of the ancient monastery. Beside the church, there are the ruins of the cloister, a brick open gallery with wooden architraves and with a 14th century Gothic window decorated with rural motives. In the interior, on the right wall, are three frescoes painted by Giovanni da Milano in 1410 and representing Abbott
St. Anthony, The Baptism of Jesus, The Lady Sitting on the Throne with St. Albin, St. Jacob, St. Augustin and the Customer. Another fresco, by an unknown painter working during the first half of the 15th century, can be seen under the triptych, representing St. Laurentius with the symbol of his martyrdom in his hand. Next to this fresco are located some visible marks carved in the bricks by the pilgrims to remember their passage: the most ancient readable date is the year 1100. Another anonymous fresco is on the left part of the presbytery and represents a Lady with Child and Saints.


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