Egerton R. (Egerton Ryerson) Williams.

Lombard towns in Italy; or, The cities of ancient Lombardy online

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and the cloisters, — the last being now converted to a bar-

The high-renaissance adornments of the church, though
incongruous with the gothic construction, render it a brilliant
and somewhat imposing edifice; the side-walls and pillars,
the frieze and roof, being one rich mass of fanciful stucco-
work, gilding and affreschi, — on the unmistakable lines of
the Cremona school. The first chapel on the left contains
those frescoes the most interesting and valuable, — a fine,
well preserved series by Andrino d'Edesia, depicting scenes
from the life of S. Majolo, Abbate: perhaps the best remain-
ing example of that artist's work, and of the Pavesan school
of the early Renaissance.



"Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame."

Lord Byron.

Twenty miles southeast of Milan, and thirty miles south
of Bergamo, upon the eastern border of the Milanese, the
Adda, stands the little city of Lodi, with 27,000 inhabitants;
renowned amongst Italians for its prominent imperialistic
part in their history of the Middle Ages, and amongst for-
eigners chiefly for the critical capture of its bridge in 1796,
by the great Napoleon. Important, however, as this exploit
was to the Conqueror's successes, it stands insignificant com-
pared with Lodi's centuries of troublous and varied history.

About 100 years before Christ, Pompeius Strabo, the father
of Pompey the Great, planted a Roman colony here, five
miles to the west of the river and the present town, — a typi-
cal incident in the long, slow process of Latinization of
Cisalpine Gaul, and but one of the long chain of military
settlements designed to hold in check the Celtic Insubres,
who then occupied the district of the Milanese. It was
called after its founder, La'us Pompeia, the first word of
which — from the Latin dative, Laudi, — in the course of a
thousand years became corrupted to Lodi. Situated in the
midst of the most fertile section of that luxuriant plain, the
town survived the fall of the Western Empire, escaped de-



struction at the hands of the successive barbaric invaders, —
perhaps from its then insignificance — and with the wane of
Frankish power became an independent republic; this waxed
mightily from the 9th to the 12th century, into a large
and powerful city that was, next to Pavia, the most de-
termined upholder of the Ghibelline cause. Ever foremost
in any effort to advance imperialistic ideas or welfare, it
was Pavia's first lieutenant in the company of Ghibelline
towns; and the forces which it put into the field in the
nth and 12th centuries, the undertakings which it ac-
complished, prove it to have been a city of the first rank,
much larger than at present. It was visited and fa-
voured by successive emperors, up to and including Frederick
Barbarossa, who with good reason esteemed the people of
Lodi as one of his most valuable and faithful allies.

The propinquity of Milan, in those days the head of the
Guelf party, naturally brought it into frequent collision with
the imperialistic ideas of Lodi ; and the final result was a dis-
aster to the latter, similar to that which overwhelmed Civita
Castellana at the hands of the Romans, centuries before.
Milan conquered the ancient city, and razed it to the ground,
compelling its inhabitants to seek shelter in the adjacent vil-
lages; thus paving the way for the very same calamity to
herself, which Barbarossa soon inflicted. This happened
shortly before the latter's first descent into Italy, in 1154;
and was one of the first grievances brought to him at the diet
of Roncaglia, by the deputies of the ruined town. Frederick
thereupon " proposed — to punish in particular the Milanese
for their arrogance, — and to oblige Milan to render to the
towns of Lodi and Como, which it had dismantled, all the
privileges which Milan itself enjoyed." x From that time he

1 Sismondi's " Italian Republics."


did not cease his attacks, until the metropolis had been meted
out its terrible fate.

Ancient Lodi never arose from its devastation; but its in-
habitants continued dwelling in the villages near-by, and in
1 158, Frederick, "following the course of the Adda, made
choice of a situation about four miles from the ruins of the
former Lodi. Here he ordered the people of Lodi to rebuild
their town, which would in future secure to him the passage
of the Adda. He summoned thither also the militias of
Pavia and Cremona, with those of the other towns of Lom-
bardy, which their jealousy of Milan had attached to the
Ghibelline party." la In this extraordinary manner sprang
up the present Lodi. That it was quickly erected into a city
of some size, with proper churches, inns, and public buildings
of every nature, is shown by the fact that only 8 years later,
in 1 1 66, the Emperor assembled there an important diet,
of the representatives of all his faithful Italian boroughs.
In the counter-assemblage, the following year, at which the
League of Lombardy was formed against him, Lodi, with
Pavia, refused to take part; but was later compelled by the
allied cities " by force of arms, to take an oath ; " — a thing
which they could not force upon the powerful metropolis of
the Lombards.

Before this time, however, the people of Lodi had secured
their revenge upon the Milanese by helping Barbarossa in
his capture of the great city, which he accomplished only
through famine. For three whole years he kept Milan in-
vested, the crops and fruit trees cut down for 15 miles on
every side, and all entry of eatables prevented by incessant
watchfulness. It is related how he " commanded the Ger-
mans and the men of Lodi to watch the roads day and night,

!a Sismondi's " Italian Republics."


lest the men of Brescia and Piacenza should carry provisions
to the Milanese." When the final surrender came, in March
1 162, the militia of Lodi marched beside the Emperor into
the doomed city; " and he commanded the men of Lodi to de-
stroy the Eastern gate, with La Tora," while the other quar-
ters were similarly parcelled out for rasure. " The men of
Lodi, mindful of their injuries received from the Milanesi,
not only destroyed the Eastern gate, but a great part of the
Roman. — Lamentations mingled with the sound of arms,
until it seemed as if heaven and earth together were falling
in ruins." 2

But Lodi, strange to say, later compelled by force to join the
Lombard League, remained then Guelfic of her own accord;
united with Milan and other cities of that persuasion, she par-
ticipated in the disastrous defeat of Ghibello, 1218, adminis-
tered by the Ghibellines; and in 1226 she joined in the renew-
ing of the Lombard compact against Frederick II. So far
did she now go in her Guelfic tendencies, that in 1259 she
elected as her military lord Martino della Torre, the captain
of Milan; thus voluntarily and unsuspectingly entering upon
a thraldom which soon became servitude, and held her pros-
trate for centuries. When Archbishop Otho Visconti dispos-
sessed the Della Torre in 1277, Lodi received him " with en-
thusiasm " ; and accepted as her immediate masters the local
family of the Fisiraga, under the appointment of Otho and
Matteo. It was Antonio Fisiraga who laid down the
tyranny of Lodi at the behest of Emperor Henry VII, in

The city nevertheless remained subject to the Visconti,
being included in " the sixteen flourishing towns " that obeyed
Archbishop Giovanni, toward the middle of that century,
and forming a portion of the domains of Galeazzo II during

2 E. Seeley's " Artists of the Renaissance."


his rule at Pavia; while in 1395 it was listed in the decree of
Emperor Wesceslaus granting the Duchy of Milan to Gian
Galeazzo. Under the latter's sway, and probably that of his
father, the local despots representing them at Lodi were
changed to the family of the Vistarini; as is proved by the
glimpse afforded us upon the death of Gian Galeazzo, when
the resulting turmoil was taken advantage of by the earlier
line of tyrants to regain possession of their power: "At
Lodi, in 1402, Antonio Fisiraga (a namesake of him who was
displaced by Henry VII) burned the chief members of the
ruling house of Vistarini on the public square ; and died him-
self of poison after a few months. His successor in the
tyranny, Giovanni Vignate (a millionaire, who purchased his
elevation) was imprisoned by Filippo Maria Visconti in a
wooden cage at Pavia, and beat his brains out in despair
against its bars." 3 Truly a typical picture, of that most ter-
rible age of the world's history.

As if exhausted by this outburst, Lodi remained quiet for
the next hundred years, until the French occupation of Lom-
bardy; then she suffered a disaster, in 1522, when garrisoned
by the French army under Lescun; for the latter was sur-
prised and driven out by a sudden attack of the imperialistic
forces, who forthwith sacked the city. They followed up
Lescun, and compelled him to capitulate at Cremona. This
was the cause of the first French evacuation of Lombardy,
and the installation of Maximilian Sforza as Duke. The
Spaniards and their allies remained in force at Lodi; and
made the town their headquarters upon the return of King
Francis with his new army. While he besieged Pavia, the
imperialists slowly gathered their strength at Lodi, until

3 Symonds' " Age of the Despots." — Filippo had seized by treach-
ery both Vignate and his son, after they had solemnly acknowledged
his lordship, and been confirmed as his vicars.


they felt strong enough, in February, 1525, to advance and
give him battle. The city suffered severely from being at
the heart of this great struggle ; and after it was ended, she
suffered equally with her neighbours from its long desolat-
ing effects, and from the terrible " seven Spanish devils."
Like Pavia, she was for a time nearly exterminated.

With the coming of the French again under Bonaparte,
Lodi once more found herself at the centre of strife, owing
to her critical position in command of the only bridge across
the Adda between Treviglio and Pizzighettone. At one of
the three places Bonaparte must pass, if he would drive the
Austrians from the plain ; for they had retreated behind the
Adda, and held the bridge of Pizzighettone, where they ex-
pected the French to make their effort to cross, by a force
too strong to be dislodged under such conditions. But Bona-
parte, leaving a division there to mask his movements, made
one of his sudden, forced marches to Lodi, with the main
part of his army, and instantly attacked the Austrians who
were guarding the bridge with 20 guns. After great loss
the passage was finally carried, not — as has so often been
said — under the personal leadership of Bonaparte, but under
that of Berthier, Lannes, Massena and other generals. The
wreck of the Austrian force succeeded in rejoining its main
body, which at once retreated behind the Mincio; while Na-
poleon from Lodi sent a triumphant despatch to the Direc-
tory, stating that " the whole of Lombardy belonged to the
Republic." — " It was on this tenth of May that Bonaparte
first felt, as he tells us, that he was destined to be great." 4

There are two ways of proceeding by rail from Pavia to
Lodi ; one is by the steam-tramway, which runs straightaway
northeast to that destination, passing midway the large but
uninteresting village of S. Angelo Lodigiano, where it is

4 G. Cooper's " Italian Campaigns of Gen. Bonaparte."


necessary to change cars and make a' wait of some time; the
trip requires in all three to four hours, and is not worth the
trouble. The other route is by the eastbound railroad to
Cremona, as far as Casalpusterlengo, — where a transfer is
made to the main line running northward ; a trip of but half
the time of the first-named. The latter was accordingly my
choice. In setting out upon it, however, I was leaving be-
hind me, unvisited, one corner of Lombardy. This was the
so-called I/omellina, a district about 25 miles square on the
farther side of the Ticino, bounded by the Po and Ticino on
the south and east, and the Sesia on the west. It is, there-
fore, geographically not a part of the Lombard province,
and in fact belonged to Piedmont until the modern reconstruc-
tion of United Italy.

But I had another sufficient reason for not including it in
my present tour: its only two cities, Mortara and Vigevano,
of 9,000 and 24,000 inhabitants respectively, located in its
northern part within a dozen miles of the Ticino, have
neither of them sufficient interest to warrant a visit. Mor-
tara has one good picture, the Madonna with Sts. Roch and
Sebastian by Gaudenzio Ferrari, and several of lesser worth
by Lanini and the decadents; Vigevano has a large and pic-
turesque central piazza, framed in Renaissance arcades, and
a castle built by the Visconti, to which the despots of Milan
occasionally resorted in the summertime. This is ponder-
ously gothic in design, with two renaissance features added
by Bramante under the directions of Lodovico Sforza, —
who seems to have been fond of the place, having also adorned
its piazza. A graceful loggia, and a tall tower like that of
Filarete upon the Castello of Milan, constitute Bramante's
additions. Aside from these things, and a few old churches
of different epochs, the Lomellina contains nothing worthy
of annotation. — On the opposite, eastern side of the Ticino,


a dozen miles west of Milan, lies a town which was much
more of a summer-resort for the despots, — Abbiategrasso,
whose name we are always encountering in the Lombard
chronicles of the quattrocento. But its castle, to which the
gay court so often repaired, and its model dairy-farm which
the Moro delighted to show to his princely visitors, have
gone the way of the past ; and naught now remains worthy of
inspection save the church which Bramante erected for
Lodovico, in his typical style. —

The journey from Pavia to Lodi revealed no new features
in the luxuriant, well-watered plain, whose closely set riches
gleamed joyously in the dazzling June sunshine. At the
village of Belgiojoso, 9 miles from Pavia, I was reminded of
the line of noble princes of that name, several of whom dis-
tinguished themselves in Lombard history ; — but none of
them more so than their brilliant daughter-in-law who played
such a striking part in the Risorgimento: that woman 5 " of
remarkable presence — a sincere, a passionate crusader, — ro-
mantic, in spite of herself, in a life of eminent exile, of con-
spiracy, of all sorts of adventurous fellowship — (with) her
strange, pale, penetrating beauty, without bloom, that was
yet the mark of an astounding masculine energy." Chris-
tina Trivulzio, 6 Princess of Belgiojoso, we remember fleeing
as a young woman from the Austrian tryanny at Milan, to
lead for a time the fashionable world of Paris, assiduously
cultivating art and letters; we remember her in '47 laying
aside that life, to raise and equip from her own resources a

5 Henry James' " William Wetmore Story."

« Of her own family of Trivulzio it is said: " The aristocracy of
Europe boasts no bluer blood than that which runs in the veins of
this distinguished race, tracing descent from the 12th century, and
numbering amongst its scions marshals of France." — H. R. White-
house in his " A Revolutionary Princess."


patriotic regiment of cavalry, at the head of which she en-
tered revolted Milan, wildly acclaimed by the people, — and
for which these wide hereditary lands were duly confiscated ;
and again we behold her, in '49, conspicuous at the siege of
Rome, animating every heart by her courage and activity,
furnishing and directing the hospitals for the wounded, and
tending them with a loving care.

"Her hair was tawny with gold; her eyes with purple were dark;

Her cheeks' pale opal burnt with a red and restless spark.

Never was lady of Milan nobler in name and in race;

Never was lady of Italy fairer to see in the face. —

Gorgeous she entered the sunlight, which gathered her up in a

While straight in her open carriage, she to the hospital came.
In she went at the door, and gazing from end to end,
'Many and low are the pallets; but each is the place of a friend.'
Up she passed through the wards, and stood at a young man's bed:
Bloody the band on his brow, and livid the droop of his head.
'Art thou a Lombard, my brother? Happy art thou!' she cried,
And smiled like Italy on him; he dreamed in her face — and died. —
Faint with that strain of heart, she moved on then to another,
Stern and strong in his death. 'And dost thou suffer, my brother?'
Holding his hands in hers: 'Out of the Piedmont lion
Cometh the sweetness of freedom, sweetest to live or to die on." 7

The magnificent castle of Belgiojoso, which was the scene
of splendid entertainments in the days of Maria Theresa,
when its princes held high authority at Milan, still stands
in fair repair ; and I also caught, as I thought, a sight of the
great aqueduct that was constructed by them to bring water
to their spacious gardens of historic beauty, and their pater-
nally guided little town.

After the change of trains at Casalpusterlengo (what a
mouthful) we soon approached Lodi through a country more

7 Mrs. Browning's " A Court Lady."— See also Raff aelo Bar-
biera's " La Principessa Belgiojoso."


strikingly fruitful than any district yet beheld, every square
yard of its rich loam being minutely cultivated, with magic
effects. Irrigation has ever been the wonder-worker in this
great garden between the Lambro and the Adda; I saw the
innumerable ditches and rivulets traversing its fields, in large
part prettily lined with trees. Its fecundity has been famous
for hundreds of years. Evelyn wrote in the 17th century:
" Passing through a continual garden, we went on with ex-
ceeding pleasure, for it is the paradise of Lombardy, the
highways being as even and straight as a line, the fields to
a vast extent planted with fruit about the enclosures, vines
to every tree at equal distances, and watered with frequent
streams. There was likewise much corne, and olives in
aboundance." s

Here is produced all the celebrated Parmesan cheese, —
not any being now made at Parma; and this accounted for
the remarkable sight of extensive grazing pastures in land so
rich. The meadows devoted to the great herds of cows are
freely irrigated for most of the year ; which not only furnishes
grass of exceptional growth and peculiar succulence, but in
many places, where warm springs are available for winter
use, enables the cattle to continue grazing through the cold
months; so it is no wonder that they have the reputation of
producing a third to a half more milk than is possible else-
where, — besides making it of that special richness and flavour
which are necessary to the cheese. And what would mac-
caroni be without Parmesan, or Italy without maccaroni !

The station of Lodi proved to be on the west of the city;

8 Evelyn's "Diary and Letters." — " Je ne puis trop exalter" —
wrote also Charles de Brosses of this countryside in 1740 — "la
beaute des routes, et de tout le pays, riche et fecond, partout plante
de beaux arbres, et coupe d'une quantite de Canaux entre lesquels on
marche presque toujours." — Lettres sur I'ltalle.


and a tree-shaded avenue led me quickly, following a facchino
bearing my luggage, to an unarched gateway in the mediaeval
brick walls, and a sunny piazza just inside it, from which the
two principal streets diverged eastward. The more north-
ern of these was the Corso Vitt. Emanuele, fairly broad,
paved with little cobbles, and lined with two- and three-
storied stucco buildings, of the last two or three hundred
years; amongst them, on the left, rose one larger palace of
the rococo era, containing the post and telegraph offices. But
this was a later discovery ; for I followed now the other street,
Via Garibaldi, which was of the same general character,
and in six or seven minutes reached the principal inn, upon
its left side. Though the best the city could boast, this was
so primitive, that I should not advise a lady to plan a stay of
more than one night. They have not been accustomed to
foreigners yet, in Lodi.

Setting out northward, a block or two brought me to
the central Piazza Maggiore, at the end of Corso Vitt.
Emanuele, — a large, treeless square surrounded by arcades,
supported mostly upon heavy medieval columns with crude
capitals. At the northern angle of the Corso stood an ex-
ception to the general stucco construction of the buildings, —
a delightful brick palazzo of gothic days, with graceful
pointed arches of that material, and charming pointed win-
dows overhead, under whose ledges ran sections of a beautiful
trefoil cornice of terracotta. On the piazza's eastern side
stood the Duomo and the Municipio, adjacent; the one
large and ponderous, surmounted by a massive tower, the
other small and graceful; the one of dark, rough brick, the
other of light, polished stone; the one in severe gothic lines,
the other in pure renaissance ; as different therefore from each
other as two buildings could be.

The enormous quadrangular campanile of the Duomo


rose upon its right side, occupying nearly a third of the fa-
cade; it bore a large clock-face at mid-height, and was prac-
tically unperforated as far as the incongruous belfry of
double rounded arches. The single doorway was shaded
by a fine gothic porch, whose pointed brick archway was sus-
tained by slender marble columns rising from dilapidated
crouching lions, and by two pairs of reed-like three-quarter
columns with romanesque capitals of distorted human figures
and beasts, quite boldly executed; the gable of the arch was
adorned with a handsome arcaded frieze and cornice of
terracotta; the doorway was recessed six-fold, in gothic
mouldings, and its rounded lunette contained a quaint early
relief of the Saviour, the Madonna, and S. Bassanio, the
patron of the church and of the city. A lifesize gilded statue
of the Madonna occupied a columned niche at the very apex
of the gabled fagade. Between it and the porch opened
a fine rose window; and immediately flanking the entrance,
in the second story, opened two perfectly renaissance win-
dows, in amazing contrast, — each consisting of two arches
upheld by elegant and very slender columns. Besides these
there were a number of unframed apertures, of varying size,
wandering sparsely and irregularly about the vast fagade,
— which was thus a strange but interesting medley of the
ages. At the foot of the tower I noticed a cinquecento
fresco, covered with wire, representing the Madonna and
S. Bassanio, — once evidently quite good, but now irretriev-
ably damaged. And upon entering the edifice I observed
two other saintly figures, standing carved upon the opposite
jambs, whose elongated primitiveness showed the age of the

The spacious, round-arched nave proved to have been
redecorated in the baroque style, with the usual reliefs all
over the side arches, and gilding upon the cornice, the capi-


tals, and the panelled pilasters of the stuccoed piers; the
bays of the vaulting were painted in grey designs with occa-
sional oval portraits of saints; the aisles, similarly decorated,
were raised at the ends beside the elevated choir, to which
central steps ascended, between others descending to the crypt.
The general dimensions of the edifice were good, and the
duskiness unusual. Above the entrance in the right aisle I
noticed a fine large Assumption of the Virgin, well and
boldly drawn, and skilfully moulded, by Botassi of Milan; it
was also richly toned and coloured, and the figure of the
Virgin, borne upward by lovely angels and cherubim, re-
flected her perfect transport of soul, while the Apostles below
were depicted with much fidelity. It is a most remarkable
work for the decadent period, and should be hung in a better

The chapels opened from the right aisle; in the first I
saw a good modern fresco of the Proclamation of the Dogma
of the Immaculate Conception ; in the second, besides a
number of damaged old frescoes, an excellent specimen of

Online LibraryEgerton R. (Egerton Ryerson) WilliamsLombard towns in Italy; or, The cities of ancient Lombardy → online text (page 23 of 47)