Lower Langa

The cathedral of St. Lawrence the Martyr

in Alba

Business Hours

08:00 → 19:00

Closing Day

Holidays

The cathedral is dedicated to St. Lawrence, a 4th-century A.D. martyr and patron saint of the Diocese of Alba.

Built on the site of an ancient public building of Roman origin, the church has undergone several rebuilding and restoration processes over the centuries.

Currently, San Lorenzo has a Latin cross plan and is characterized by a mixture of styles ranging from neo-Gothic to Baroque, with interiors in which one can admire striking effects of darkness and penumbra.

The
History

The cathedral of St. Lawrence the Martyr

The oldest documentary records of the cathedral are provided by an important historian from Alba, the erudite Baron Giuseppe Vernazza (1745-1822).

He reports two imperial diplomas, one by Otto I in 969 and the second by Otto III in 998, in which the church of St. Lawrence of Alba appears to be mentioned.

Vernazza also reports news of deeds (of sale, private lease, etc.) concluded at the same Alba church, on various dates, including 1153, 1161, 1176, 1180, 1198.

Various other documents in which it appears from the 13th and 14th centuries are included in the Rigestum Comunis Albe. For 1372 again the Alba historian reports a bequest of "30 soldi astesi ad opus et hedificium of the church of San Lorenzo."

Roman origins and the early medieval period

The cathedral was erected at an uncertain date, but it is believed to have originated, along with the initial establishment of the ancient diocese, in the late 5th century.

Archaeological investigations, carried out by the State Superintendency between 2007 and 2011, revealed several structures datable to this period.

Notable among them are. the remains of a public building of Roman origin, dating from around the 1st-2nd century AD, a early christian baptismal font, from the early 6th century, the remains of a sewage disposal plant, a sector occupied by burials, and several sculptural artifacts and pottery from the Roman and medieval periods.

These findings indicate a structure that predates the church as we know it today, and are fortunately observable in the underground archaeological trail.

The early medieval period

There is evidence of the Romanesque church in the 10th-11th centuries.

Referable to this phase is the bell tower, which, in a truly unique situation, remains incorporated into the later one, whose external structure of overlapping orders of single- and double-lancet openings dates from the late 12th century.

According to various medieval documents, public meetings were held on the loggias adjacent to the building, and under the arcades local merchants held store on mobile stalls.

In the modern age

The sacred building was rebuilt from 1486 to 1516, commissioned by Bishop Monsignor Andrea Novelli, then restored and enlarged at various times, always maintaining the three-aisle, Latin-cross plan-volumetric layout.

Among such later interventions, the following should be noted: the repairs and consolidation in 1588, the rebuilding in 1652 (with a barrel structure) of the vault that collapsed in 1626, and the erection of the two large side chapels between 1642 and 1656.

The cathedral was also extensively renovated in neo-Gothic forms between 1867 and 1874, designed by architect Arborio Mella.

Its management, until the 19th century, was entrusted to the Chapter of Canons.

The Interior

St. Lawrence Cathedral is the city's most important place of worship

The structure has a thousand-year history that has its roots in Roman times.

The altar of the Holy Crucifix

Entering the cathedral, in the right sector, after observing themarble stoup from 1503 (commissioned by the nobleman Urbano Serralunga), one encounters a first side altar dedicated to the Holy Crucifix, made in the neo-Gothic style around 1867-71 to a design by Arch. Arborio Mella.

It was donated by Bishop Eugenio Galletti of Alba, whose coat of arms is engraved centrally in the marble structure. A bronze crucifix, coeval with the 19th-century installation, is placed on the altar.

Two eighteenth-century paintings can be seen on the side walls: on the left The Transit of St. Joseph, on the right The Madonna and Child, Saints Philip Neri and Grate attributed to the Braid painter Pietro Paolo Operti.

The altar of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Continuing, on the right side, is the side altar of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, also made in the neo-Gothic style in the same period and with the same design as the previous one.

Above the sacred table is clearly visible the 19th-century statue representing Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, a valuable execution of “French type.”

On the side walls are two altarpieces from the church of St. Dominic, both works by the Braid painter Agostino Cottolengo, brother of the blessed: on the left St. Palemon abbot (1827), on the right St. Eugene pope (1840).

The altar of the Holy Family

Then there is the altar of the Holy Family (formerly dedicated to the Holy Trinity), made like the previous ones and supplemented with wall decorations dated between 1874-75.

Above the sacred table is the altarpiece depicting The Holy Trinity and the Holy Family, probably the work of painter Cesare Rossi (1875), executed to replace an earlier painting by Luigi Hartman.

Two figured canvases can be seen on the side walls: on the left Our Lady of the Consolata (1826) from the church of St. Dominic, and on the right a 17th-century Jesus Crucified perhaps also from the same former Dominican church.

The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

The side chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (built between 1642 and 1656 on the commission of the learned prelate Msgr. Brizio) was initially the bishops’ chapel; completed in the 18th century, it has an altar marked by vigorous Baroque solutions that also characterize the furnishings and the candelabra apparatus.

The episcopal coat of arms can be seen in the side pews. The central icon is a valuable canvas painting depicting St. Elijah the Prophet and St. Eligius in Adoration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, by Francesco Antonio Cuniberti of Savigliano, executed in 1746.

Also by the same artist are the two large paintings on the walls on either side, depicting The Prophet Elijah Awakened and Nurtured by the Angel, on the right The Miraculous Holocaust of the Prophet Elijah.

The Baroque frescoes in the vault were also executed in 1748 by Cuniberti. Of particular note among the sought-after quadratures is the scene with St. Elijah who, abducted in a chariot of fire, drops his cloak as a gift to the Prophet Elisha.

Opposite the bishops’ chancel is another 18th-century painting executed on canvas, depicting The Martyrdom of St. Donatus Bishop of Arezzo.

In 1986, the chapel was fully restored to mark the fifth centenary of the beginning of the “Novellian” reconstruction of the Alba cathedral.

The Presbytery

Past the wall with the entrance to the sacristy (surmounted by the sculptural image of Bishop Msgr. Marco Gerolamo Vida, executed in 1870 by Stefano Bossi of Novara), one enters the raised presbytery.

The side walls of the section were entirely painted between 1870-71, with the four large monochrome paintings by Cherubino Luigi Hartman from Valtellina (Vicende di San Lorenzo martire) and medallions by Agostino Caironi from Milan (Santi e Beati).

The high altar

The baroque high altar is raised on the imposing staircase that surpasses the vault of the crypt below. The side balustrades were commissioned by Bishop Msgr. Giuseppe Roero and made by Francesco Maria Giudice in 1702.

The fine altar, in inlaid marble, is the work of Giuseppe Gagini, erected in 1711-1712, also commissioned by Msgr. Roero, whose noble coat of arms can be seen on the sides of the sacred table.

Also to be seen in this elevated space are two Rococo console tables donated by Bishop Msgr. Enrichetto Virginio Natta around 1760 and the valuable episcopal chair with its two decorative bands from the 16th century, which can be traced back to the time of Msgr. Vida (presiding bishop from 1533 to 1566).

Set before the ancient presbytery staircase is the recent ritual installation (sacred mensa, bishop’s chair, ambo and luminous veil) designed, as a new presbytery, in 2008 by Arch. Massimiliano Valdinoci and collaborators, being chosen in a special design competition among technical designers.

The Apse and the Choir

In the polygonal space of the apse, illuminated by polychrome stained glass windows from 1936, is the splendid wooden choir that was commissioned by Bishop Msgr. Andrea Novelli and made in 1512 by Cremonese cabinetmaker Bernardino Fossato da Codogno, then carefully restored in 1998.

In the inlay illustrations of the backs are depicted various sacred and secular objects, turreted cities and urban environments, villages perched on hills, ajar doors from which various material things appear.

Above, the large altarpiece depicting The Glory of Saint Lawrence Martyr, executed by Turin-based painter Claudio Francesco Beaumont in 1766, commissioned by Bishop Msgr. Natta, can be seen in the center.

This Baroque work replaced the previous altarpiece, painted by Giulio Campi of Cremona in 1566 on the commission of Bishop Msgr. Vida, currently kept in the Chapter House, which was built by Bishop Giacinto Vagnone around 1770, based on a design by Eng. Carlo Gallina.

In that large area behind are visible other works on canvas, dating from the 17th to the 19th century, but especially the statuary group of Our Lady of the Assumption, in carved and lacquered wood, attributed to the 19th-century sculptor Antonio Roasio from Monregalese, and the vault frescoed with the Triumph of the Holy Cross and quadratures by Fedele Finati from Alba in 1899.

In the sacristy one can see, in particular, the bas-relief of the Madonna and Child and Saints made in 1507 by sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo Sormani, as well as the elegant 16th-century “canons’ lavabo” in the back sacristy.

Chapel of St. Theobald

Past the wall with the entrance to the bell tower compartment (surmounted at the top by the sepulchral monument of Bishop Msgr. Novelli, executed in 1870 by Stefano Bossi from Novara), one enters the chapel of St. Theobald.

The monumental altar results from a complex superimposition of various 16th- and 18th-century wooden and marble elements.

The central, marble ark of St. Theobald was executed in 1525 by Lombard Antonio Carlone and collaborators.

Arranged on the left wall of the altar are two large paintings on canvas: the 17th-century St. Theobald invoking the Trinity to protect the city, and the altarpiece depicting The Miracle of St. Theobald painted by Michel Antonio Milocco in 1761.

On the right wall are placed three small plastic works of different ages and sizes: the coat of arms of Msgr. Vittorio Nicolino Della Chiesa (bishop of Alba from 1667 to 1691), that of Msgr. Paolo Brizio (bishop of Alba from 1662 to 1691), and the commemorative epigraph of 1429 celebrating the finding of the buried remains of St. Theobald, with relief images of St. Theobald and St. Lawrence.

Finally, there are two paintings on canvas: the 17th-century Holy Trinity crowning the Virgin Mary and two saints, and the shovel with the Guardian saints of Alba intervening to protect the besieged city, painted by Milocco and an assistant in 1761 (restored in 1997 by Nicola’s workshop in Aramengo).

The frescoes on the vault and walls were done again by Milocco, in 1760, for the figures, and by Gallo Barelli for the decorations. They were restored by Silvio Rolando in 1999-2000.

Continuing toward the exit, one glimpses the side altar dedicated to St. Bovo, on whose sacred mensa is the titular altarpiece executed by Turin painter Luigi Morgari in 1872.

The Altar of San Bovo

On the right wall can be seen the 1630 painting on canvas depicting St. Bovo, St. Theobald, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Roch at the foot of the Crucifix, commissioned by the Belli counts from the painter Giuliano Rusello.

On the left wall is the pictorial work with the imposing image of St. Anthony the Abbot, painted in 1591 by the Casalese Ambrogio Oliva (master of the well-known Guglielmo Caccia known as Moncalvo).

The Altar of Our Lady of the Rosary

This is followed by the side altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary (replacing the previous titular St. Luke).

On the sacred table is the large altarpiece executed in 1888 by Enrico Reffo of Turin, depicting The Madonna and Child with St. Dominic of Guzman and St. Catherine of Siena at her feet.

On the right wall is a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, Dead Christ and Five Saints, a work dated 1770 and signed by Roman artist Giovanni Pirri.

Finally, on the right side is the 17th-century altarpiece depicting St. Luke portraying the Madonna and Child among angels, attributed to Cherasque painter Sebastiano Taricco.

The Baptistery

Next, towards the entrance is the Baptistery, whose baptismal font was built in 1991, designed by architect Ugo Dellapiana.

On the central wall is a fine 18th-century altarpiece depicting The Baptism of Jesus, attributed by Canon Pozzetti to Beaumont of Turin, but found to have been repainted in the 19th century by the Monregalese painter Andrea Vinaj.

Before leaving, the imposing organ on the tribune in the counterfacade, made in 1876 by the Lingiardi brothers of Pavia, should be noted.

N° of floors

Park

Visit Duration

Ticket Price

Free Entrance

Audioguides

Not available

Guided Visit

Not available

The architectural structure

The interior of the Alba cathedral is striking

Numerous effects of dark, penumbra and in the light beams, variously determined by the structures.

The naves and chapels

The general layout is Latin cross, with three naves, chancel, two deep side chapels and polygonal apse (with crypt below).

There are located, in addition to the major one, six side altars and the two aforementioned chapels. The severe, “ascending” system of ogival ribbed vaults, set on six mighty, cruciform, polystyle columns, is ornamented by the wide starry sky and various decorative bands.

Following Mella’s conception, these ornamental paintings were executed between 1870-71 by Carlo Costa of Vercelli.

The Portals and the Front

The three Romanesque portals, located under the portico in the facade, are dated to the 12th century. They feature elegant arches, plastic decorations, lunette tracery, and anthropomorphic and leaf capitals.

On the main front, facing Risorgimento Square, characterized by the four turrets (only the two in the center are 15th-century) and the faux machicolations at the top, the 19th-century central rose window and the two single-lancet openings are evident.

Three wide ogival arches characterize the presence of the portico.

Four plastic depictions of the symbols of the Evangelists, made by Carlo Dusio in 1878, are distinguishable in the elevation; they are arranged in sequence, so the respective initial letters of their symbols form the name of the city (Angel, Lion, Ox, Eagle A.L.B.A.).

The central statue of the titular St. Lawrence was executed, also in 1878, by Luigi Cocchio.

The bell tower overall is 64 meters high.

In 1477 its crowning at the top was modified, adding the spire in late Gothic style.

The cathedral of St. Lawrence the Martyr

Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Piazza Duomo, Alba, CN, Italia
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