Dedicated to Maria Assunta the Cathedral is one of the most renowned examples of Romanesque art of the Po Valley.
The Cathedral’s facade is classic Lombard-Romanesque, inside is a Latin cross formation, divided into a nave and two aisles with pictorial decoration representing the “Life of Christ”, above the women’s gallery, and culminating with the “Ascension” in the dome.
The fresco was not well received when it was unveiled in 1530. “A mess of frogs’ legs,” the bishop of Parma is said to have called it. Today Correggio is acclaimed as one of the leading masters of Mannerist painting.
Here is what Charles Dickens said about Parma and the religious buildings of the Piazza Duomo:
“Parma has cheerful, stirring streets, for an Italian town; and consequently is not so characteristic as many places of less note. Always excepting the retired Piazza, where the Cathedral, Baptistery, and Campanile ancient buildings, of a sombre brown, embellished with innumerable grotesque monsters and dreamy-looking creatures carved in marble and red stone are clustered in a noble and magnificent repose. Their silent presence was only invaded, when I saw them, by the twittering of the many birds that were flying in and out of the crevices in the stones and little nooks in the architecture, where they had made their nests. They were busy, rising from the cold shade of Temples made with hands, into the sunny air of Heaven…..”
The “Correggio`s frescoes in the Cupola. Heaven knows how beautiful they may have been at one time. Connoisseurs fall into raptures with them now; but such a labyrinth of arms and legs: such heaps of foreshortened limbs, entangled and involved and jumbled together: no operative surgeon, gone mad, could imagine in his wildest delirium”.
The frescoes are now once again vibrant.
Wonderful and really important the white marble slab of the “Deposition”, worked in high relief by Benedetto Antelami, signed by him and dated 1178.
A friend of mine who is one of the beadle of the Cathedral can take you in secret and hidden places inside.
Overshadowing even the Cathedral, the octagonal pink-marble baptistery on the south side of the piazza is one of the most important such structures in Italy. Its architecture is a hybrid of Romanesque and Gothic, and its construction started in 1196 on the cusp of the two great architectural eras.
Begun in the 12th century, it’s considered one of medieval Europe’s most important buildings for its straddling of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture periods.
The internal architectonic structure is different from external one and its subdivided into sixteen sides.
Famous for its architecture, as well as its incredible frescoes and mythical animal statues, the Baptistery is home to sculptures by famous Italian artist, Benedetto Antelami who did the cycle of the months composed of figures intent on working in fields presenting an incredible simplicity and formal purity wich renders the expressive realism even more incisive.
S. Giovanni Evangelista Church
This abbey church rises directly behind the Duomo and is attached to a monastery. Its 16th-century facade is mannerist (the less-harmonious, rational style that followed the High Renaissance) and is noted for its magnificent frescoed dome, the work of Correggio. The dome was highly influential for its time and inspired many later works.
Also in this church (in the second and fourth chapels on the left) are works by Parmigianino, a contemporary of Correggio’s. Once seen, Parmigianino’s long-necked Madonnas are never forgotten
Closed to the abbey the Spezieria di San Giovanni (Apothecary), four rooms furnished with 16th and 17th century wooden shelves, bearing vases, majolica jars.
In the abbey you can still buy natural remedies for cough, rheumatic pain, nausea, weakness and else.
St Paul Room (Camera di San Paolo)
This was the reception room for the erudite abbess Giovanna da Piacenza. In 1519 she hired Correggio to provide its decoration. Mythological scenes depict glorious frescoes of the Triumphs of the Goddess Diana, the Three Graces, and the Three Fates.
Correggio, here elaborating the more modern aspects of northern Italian art, invented a pictorial space that practically cancelled out the architectonic space.
Santa Maria della Steccata Church
Behind the Palazzo del Governatore in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Steccata, you’ll find some of Parmigianino’s most extraordinary work, notably the stunning, if rather faded, frescoes on the arches above the altar. Many members of the ruling Farnese and Bourbon families lie buried here.
Dating from the 16th century, this delightful church has one of Parma’s most recognizable domes. In the dome’s large arch there’s a wonderful decorative fresco by Francesco Mazzola, better known as Parmigianino (1503–40). He took so long to complete it that his patrons briefly imprisoned him for breach of contract.
Particular importance is the noble Sacristy behind the apse where precious liturgical vestments are preserved together, tissues embroidered with gold, silver and precious silks.
For art lovers, or those who appreciate history, the National Gallery should not be missed. It’s located on the second floor of the Pilotta Palace and is full of artwork from the 13th to the 19th centuries.
Paintings of Correggio, Parmigianino, Giulio Romano, Michelangelo, Bruegel, El Greco,Van Dyck, Tiepolo, Canaletto and a beautiful “head of a young woman” from Leonardo da Vinci.
Before you get to the Gallery, you will pass through the Teatro Farnese, a copy of Andrea Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.
On the fist floor in Pilotta Palace builted in short time (1617 and 1618) from Ranuccio I Farnese who intended to celebrate with a theatrical spectacle (which never took place) the visit to Parma of Cosimo II de Medici during a trip to Milan.
The architectonic structure was entirely made of wood and stucco and the two equestrian statues on the end sides are made with paper mache.
The Theatre Farnese destined for the private use of the court was inaugurated on the 1628 for the marriage of Odoardo Farnese and Margherita de Medici with a performance finishing a se battle, flooding thewhole cavea.
It has been almost totally destroyed by a bomb in 1944 and rebuilded on 1950 using in part the reusable original material.
One of the most well-known Italian Opera Theatre.
It has been builded on the 1829 commisioned by Marie Lousie d’Austria (Napoleone Bonaparte’s second wife). Known for the perfect acoustic and elegance of the interior, has hosted the most great opera singers known around the world.
The interior is made up of a hall with a stucco lacunar ceiling supported by columns of Ionic order, elliptic stalls delited by four tiers of boxies and a balcony.
Stretching along the west bank of the Parma river, these formal gardens seem like Parma personified – refined, peaceful and with barely a blade of grass out of place. They were laid out in 1560 around the Farnese family’s Palazzo Ducale
Between 1753 and 1766 the sculptor Jean Baptiste Boudard made the statues in Apuan marble, depicting classical deities and the Neo-classical vases that still adorn the park.
Parmesans go jogging every evening and mums with the children during the day.