The Basilica of San Simpliciano is the second oldest church in the form of a Latin cross, first erected by Saint Ambrose. It is dedicated to Saint Simplician, bishop of Milan.
The site of the present church was occupied in the 3rd century AD by a pagan cemetery. There St. Ambrose began the construction of the Basilica Virginum ('Basilica of the Virgins'), which was finished by his successor Simplicianus, who was buried there. A brick with the mark of the Lombard King Agilulf shows that repairs were made between 590 and 615 AD.
In the ninth century the Cluniac Benedictines took possession of the church. In 1176 the church became famous when, according to the legend, the bodies of the martyrs housed here flew as doves to the field of Legnano, landing on the City's Carroccio, (a ceremonial war waggon) as a sign of the imminent victory against Frederick Barbarossa's army.
When the building was modified between the 12th and the 13th centuries, giving it the present Romanesque appearance, the original walls were preserved to a height of 22 meters. On the night of 6–7 April 1252 the body of Peter of Verona (later St. Peter Martyr) lay in state after his assassination. A great multitude came to watch vigil, and the origins of Peter's cult began, as people started to report miraculous occurrences. In 1517 it was acquired by the Benedictines of Montecassino, who remained here until 1798, when the convent was secularized and for a time turned into barracks. In the 16th century the Spanish governor Ferrante Gonzaga had the bell tower lowered by 25 meters. The dome and the side wings were also modified in 1582. Other interventions were carried out in the 19th century, with poor results, while the façade was reworked in 1870. In 1927 stained-glass windows portraying episodes of the battle of Legnano were added.
On the façade, the arcades that surmount the portals indicate the presence of an ancient portico, now disappeared. The upper part, the most modified in the 19th century, has two mullioned windows in the centre, an upper triple mullioned window and decorative arches. Late Renaissance mullioned windows also decorate the bell tower.
The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a four-bay nave and two aisles. The transept is divided into two aisles.
The side chapels have decorations from various eras, from Renaissance to Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical. In the right transept is a painting by Alessandro Varotari (Il Padovanino) portraying the Defeat of the Cammolesi. Next to the apse entrance are saints frescoed by Aurelio Luini. The apse vault is decorated by what is considered Ambrogio da Fossano's masterwork, a wide Incoronation of Mary.
Also on the left of the apse is the entrance to the small sacellum dedicated to the Martyrs of Anaunia, not before the end of the fourth century, as in a passage in Maximus of Turin's Sermo 81 Maximus designates himself a witness of the martyrdom of three missionary priests in 397 at Anaunia in the Rhaetian Alps.
The western wall of the transept has a Marriage of the Virgin by Camillo Procaccini.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.