The Skyline: Cupola and Belltower

It is impossible to imagine the skyline of Novara without Alessandro Antonelli and Benedetto Alfieri's belltower (or belfry). But it was not always so.
On the basilica there was a slight curvature flanked by a small belltower which simply served as a support to the bells and was not included on Alfieri's original plans, consequently not popular with the people of Novara.

In 1753 the plans of the basilica were requested but never found (and have never been found).

T
here were conflicting views over the completion of the construction of the dome (cupola), the initial project was thought to have been for a complimentary natural design, other opinions were for a more important belfry. The latter was decided and in 1786 plans were drawn up, but the dome still had to be designed.

The problem remained nevertheless that the design of the cupola should be innovative or otherwise a mere imitations of other such similar works.

In 1840 the city commissioned the best known piedmontese architect of that time - Alessandro Antonelli. Plans were drawn up and work started with the restoration of the facade and the construction of a new portal which was completed in about 1845.
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There were serious delays in the subsequent years caused by the wars between Piedmonte and the Austrian dominion. However, the interruption in works in fact proved providential, plans were reconsidered and it was decided to raise the structure making is more harmonious and proportional.

The first cupola would have appeared too low and therefore not visible to those people living on the bulwark of Novara. Antonelli consequently searched for the solution which would create the necessary balance between the length of the central structure, the facade and the height of the main entrance.

In 1856 works started again following a new design.
H owever the skyline was still not adequate and in 1860 a new project was drawn up. A double system of columns in order to raise and lighten the structure was proposed and subsequently contested not only for technical reasons but more so because of the significant increase in costs. Antonelli managed to reduce these expenses without compromising the stability and flexibility that the double system of columns could guarantee.

Finally in 1861 plans were approved.
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Even though a series of events thereafter caused new disagreements which almost lead to further interruptions to the point of a possible complete abandon of the project, in 1862 the second order of columns were finally completed. During his works, Antonelli was assisted by a brilliant works director, Guiseppe Magistrini, without whose assistance, it would have been impossibile to supply skilled workers, find solutions and risolve the many problems which occured each time plans were modified or even abandoned. In 1862 Magistrini retired for health reasons and his place was taken by Francesco Pedoja as works director.
There were further contrasting opinions over the opening of the round windows which however came to an end in 1878 when on the 16th of May the statue of Christ our Saviour by P Zucchi was erected.

The skyline of Novara was finally complete.
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Even though a series of events thereafter caused new disagreements which almost lead to further interruptions to the point of a possible complete abandon of the project, in 1862 the second order of columns were finally completed. During his works, Antonelli was assisted by a brilliant works director, Guiseppe Magistrini, without whose assistance, it would have been impossibile to supply skilled workers, find solutions and risolve the many problems which occured each time plans were modified or even abandoned. In 1862 Magistrini retired for health reasons and his place was taken by Francesco Pedoja as works director.

There were further contrasting opinions over the opening of the round windows which however came to an end in 1878 when on the 16th of May the statue of Christ our Saviour by P Zucchi was erected. The skyline of Novara was finally complete. Little is known regarding certain events which could have brought total disaster to the works. It did become apparent however that the pillars could not support the actual weight of the complete construction (the dome alone weighed some 5572 tons) and were subsiding. Between the years 1883 and 1885 and not without further disagreements, Antonelli again provided the necessary answers and reinforced the pillars. Two years later the organs were relocated in the basilica and stuccoes of the four evangelists were assigned above some of the big arcs. They were so ugly that the people called them mascheroni which means big masks and were subsequently removed..

On 22nd January 1887 celebrations saw the completion of the entire construction, at 121 mt high it is possibly the tallest brick construction in the world. An estimated 2 million bricks were used.

Since then maintenance and monitoring have not been altered. During the war years the cupola was cleaned and reinforced and the statue of Christ our Saviour replaced. Today a museum is in the phase of construction under the rooves of the buildings. All this is 'under' the skyline, which remains the ultimate symbol of Novara and its Patron Saint Gaudenzio

Canonico archivista: Agostino Temporelli Traduzione : Genevieve Church


Tour are suspended until a date to be determined because of work in progress

     
   
   
   
  " La Cupola" by CORRADO BONOMI
   
  Click on the image


transetto sinistro