The Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro is the cathedral of Bergamo, dedicated to Saint Alexander, the patron saint of the city. The cathedral is located in the historical center of the city – Città Alta, in the small but beautiful Piazza del Duomo, near the Palazzo della Ragione and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
In the 8th century, a church in Romanesque style was built on this place, on the site of a paleochristian place of worship dating back to the 5th century. The church was dedicated to San Vincenzo (Saint Vincent of Saragossa).
Around the middle of the 15th century, the bishop Giovanni Barozzi decided to build a larger church, entrusting the project to the Florentine architect Filarete.
On May 3, 1459, the first stone was laid, and in 1467 the first chapel on the left side was completed and dedicated to Saint Catherine and Saint Jerome. However, after a couple of years, the works suffered an abrupt interruption due to the death of Filarete and to the simultaneous election of bishop Barozzi as Patriarch of Venice.
In 1561, the Church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna was demolished for the construction of the Venetian Walls. The relics of the saint were transfered to the Church of Saint Vincent, making the two devotions coexist.
In 1611, the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi was appointed to direct the works. In 1689, the architect Carlo Fontana built the dome, lengthened the apse and completed the cathedral in 1693.
In 1704, through a papal bull of Pope Innocent XI, the church was dedicated only to Saint Alexander, and the side chapel of the presbytery was dedicated to Saint Vincent.
During the 19th century, the church underwent other renovations that affected the bell tower, the dome, the Chapel of the Crucifix and the interior. The facade of the cathedral was begun in 1866 and finished in 1889. The facade was inaugurated on August 26, 1889, on the feast day of Saint Alexander.
In 2012, the Museo della Cattedale (Museum of the Cathedral) was opened to the public, allowing visitors to view and understand the evolution of the church since its earliest form.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The white marble facade of the cathedral is preceded by a staircase in red granite, and presents, in the lower part, a portico with three arches supported by pillars.
Each of the two side arches is decorated with a small dome and surmounted by a bronze statue. The central arch is surmounted by the statue of Saint Alexander by Paolo Sozzi, while the two statues on the sides depict the theological virtues Faith and Hope, works of Luigi Pagani.
The upper part of the facade has a large rectangular window framed by two Corinthian columns, with two niches on the sides, surmounted by a triangular tympanum.
The dome of the cathedral presents a high drum with quadrangular windows and a copper roof surmounted by the statue of Sant’Alessandro by Carlo Broggi, gilded only in 1984.
The interior of the cathedral has a Latin cross plan, with a single nave that opens onto the side chapels, three per side and a barrel vault with lunettes.
In the right transept, there is the great altar of Saints Fermo, Rustico and Procolo designed by Filippo Juvara, and in the left one the altar dedicated to the Madonna della Pietà.
The presbytery is accessed by a staircase composed of seven steps in white marble with a black marble balustrade. In the center of the presbytery, there is the modern altar executed after the Second Vatican Council, composed of a marble table housing the precious 17th-century silver altar with the silver urn containing the remains of Saint Alexander. Behind, there is the main altar, decorated with polychrome marble and gilded metal figures, built by Cesare Targoni in 1588.
In the main apse, behind the altar, seven large paintings are placed. Also in the apse, there is a wooden choir carved by Gian Carlo Sanz between 1693 and 1698. The bishop’s throne at the center of the choir is the work of Andrea Fantoni from 1705.
The sacristy contains works by Giovan Battista Moroni and a compartment that was part of a 15th-century wooden gilded polyptych.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest bus station is in Piazza Mercato Scarpe, about 260 meters away, on the bus Lines 1 and 3. In the same square, there is also the Funicular to Città Basa. To find the church on foot, use the map below.