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Did you already understand what am I talking about? The Via Emilia. The Roman consul Marco Emilio Lepido created this street in 187 BC and it still connecting almost all the cities of the Emilia-Romagna even today. Right on the Via Emilia between Parma and Piacenza is located the town of Fidenza, born as a Roman campsite with the name of Fidentia.

After the fall of the Roman Empire of the West, it was invaded by hordes of Barbarian many times and in the 5th century it was destroyed; it started then a reconstruction of a “Borgo” – borough. Later, due to the creation and diffusion of the cult of San Donnino the city took the name of “Borgo San Donnino” and it kept until the 1927.

Thanks to its strategic position on the Via Emilia and on the Via Francigena, Parma and Piacenza competed for it for a long time, but it was mostly under Parma’s control.

In 1102, Federico Barbarossa gave custody of Borgo San Donnino to the Pallavicino Family and it became a recognised municipality. People from Parma attacked it many times: in 1268, the city was destroyed and then, in 1300, it was rebuilt. For defence from the Parma attacks, they built the Salvaterra Tower. 

The supremacies on Borgo San Donnino were discontinuous: the Visconti Family hold it for more than a century (from 1336 to 1447), then it was transferred to the Sforza, who hold it until 1499. Up to the middle of the 16th century, it was the capital of the State of the Pallavicino Family, while in 1556 it become part of the Land of Parma and Piacenza. During the domination of the Farnese, were erected many buildings, but the city was also hit by an epidemic plague, probably spread because of the pilgrims who travelled the Via Francigena and used to stop in Borgo San Donnino.

In 1731, the Farnese dynasty ended and the city was transferred to the Borbone Family, who kept it until the 1802, when is dominion became French. The French tried to cheer up the decadence of the city and when I entered the Land of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, I built a new bridge on the Stirone, to improve the territory’s transport routes.

Years later, the city was annexed to the Savoia Kingdom of Italy. Do you know who the first representative of Borgo San Donnino was? Giuseppe Verdi!

During the Fascism, the city had a massive development, but the bombardments of the 1944 destroyed almost it all. The next spring, there were some Nazi-Fascist retaliations and on the 26 of April of 1945 the Allied released Fidenza. Fifteen years later, Fidenza was honoured with the bronze medal for civil value.  

 

Surely, Fidenza was protagonist of the history and the Cathedral of Saint Donnino is a testimony.

With a typical Romanic style, the church was built in the end of the 11th century on the ruins of an old church rose in the place of the martyrdom of Saint Donnino, close to the old Roman bridge of the Stirone. The façade is enclosed in between two towers and it is divided in two levels: the top is in cotto tile, while de bottom is decorated with sculptures of Benedetto Antelami and its studio, dating back to the 12th century. Three portals with prothyrums characterize it: two side ones, called “the Portal of Life” and “the Portal of Death”, and the central one, with a bigger prothyrum and two column-bearing lions. On its top there is represented the life of Saint Donnino – on marble relief – with two recesses on the sides holding the sculptures of two biblical figures: Ezequiel and David. Next to the recesses, there are two columns: one supports the statue of the apostle Simon, holding a paper with ‘Simon Apostolus eundi Roman Sanctus demonstrat hanc viam’ – the Saint Apostle Simon shows the way to those who goes to Rome - written on it. This sculpture, like the others of the façade, was referring to the pilgrims who travelled the Via Francigena. 

Other reliefs shows the stories of the Old and New Testament, but they also refers to legends, pilgrims, fantasy characters and notorious people, such as Carlo Magno (who found the body of Saint Donnino in this place) and Giovanni Pallavicino, benefactor of the Cathedral.

Inside, the church has three aisles and in the crypt are stored the relicts of Saint Donnino, in a small urn inside the altar.

The crypt is the most ancient part of the Dome because it was created in the Roman Age, as testified by some hexagonal tiles that were very used at that time.

The apse and the side chapels are dating back between the 13th and the 16th centuries.

 

Another important temple is surely the Church of Saint Thomas Becket, located in Cabriolo (right out of Fidenza) on the top of a small hill.

It is a Romanic church erected in the 12th century on a territory donated to the Templar knights, who decided to create a residence, and made the church their own chapel. 

In 1167 Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, while was on his way to Rome, stopped in Cabriolo: on his death, they decided to name the church after him.

Later, during the process against the Templars knights, in 1309, their residence went on fire. In the 16th century, the church became a parish church and in the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon abolished the religious orders, it was transferred to a private ownership.

The apse is the most ancient part of the structure and it is covered in cotto tile, while the façade and the aisle are dating back to the 15th century.

In the first half of the 1900s, they started some restoration: these took to the discovering of a cycle of medieval relief inside the church (1922), and the opening of an ancient single-lancet window in the middle of the apse (1954), which had been closed in the past.

In the mural painting, there are some notorious subject: the Holy Trinity, represented as three angels having a meal, and Saint Michael Archangel in the act of the psicostasia – weighing the souls. Both there iconography are very uncommon in the Medieval art. The first is typical of the orthodox churches; the second one belonged to the Egyptian culture.

In the beginning of the 2000, they started some new consolidation and restoration work due to some structural failure, and in 2016, the church was opened to the public.

Among the many civic notable buildings, there is the Door of Saint Donnino, wanted by the Visconti, which was built in 1364 where there used to be the Roman Bridge: this is the only surviving part of the ancient fortification of Fidenza. 

Very important is, eventually, the Magnani Theatre, which construction started in 1816 and finished in 1861; the scenographer Girolamo Magnani from Fidenza realized the decoration of the foyer, the entrance hall and the theatre. In 1889, the building was named after him. The theatre still used today for performances and operas. 

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