Monza Cathedral (Duomo di Monza) is not in fact a cathedral, as Monza has always been part of the Diocese of Milan, but is in the charge of an archpriest who has the right to certain episcopal vestments including the mitre and the ring.
The basilica, which would in essence have been complete by 603, is believed to have been commissioned towards the end of the sixth century by the Lombard Queen of Italy, Theodelinda, as a royal chapel to serve the nearby palace. In 595, she had a oraculum (chapel) built on the Greek Cross plan; of this chapel only the walls exist today. The queen was buried here, in what is now the central left aisle of the church. On the remains of the oraculum, a new church was erected in the 13th century. It was again rebuilt as a basilica, starting from 1300, on a Latin Cross plan with an octagonal tiburium. In the late 14th century, the side chapels were added and, as designed by Matteo da Campione, the Pisan-Gothic style west front in white and green marble was begun.
Starting from the 16th century, the choir and the ceiling were restored. Subsequently, the walls and the vaults were decorated with frescoes and stucco-work. The bell tower was erected in 1606. In the 18th century a cemetery was annexed on the left side.
The massive west front is divided into five parts by six lesene (applied strips), each of which is surmounted by a tabernacle housing a statue. The façade has several mullioned windows with, in the centre, a large rose windowframed by a motif inspired by Roman antique ceilings, decorated with rosettes, masks and star motifs.
The façade is considered Romanesque in its structure and Gothic in its decoration. Typical of the latter is the porch, with 14th century gargoyles on the sides and the 13th century lunette with the 16th century busts of Theodelinda and King Agilulf. Over the porch is the statue of Saint John the Baptist (15th century). Over the portal is depicted the Baptism of Jesus, assisted by Saint Peter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Zachary and Saint Paul. In the upper section is portrayed Theodelinda offering to John the Baptist the Iron Crown of Lombardy, together with her kneeling husband Agilulf and their children Adaloald and Gundeberga.
The church has a nave and two aisles, separated by octagonal columns with Romanesque capitals and round columns with Baroque capitals. It ends in large apses, and has a series of chapels opening into the aisles.
The wall decoration is overwhelmingly Baroque. Other artworks include a choir by Matteo da Campione, the high altar by Andrea Appiani, and the presbytery and transept frescoes by Giuseppe Meda and Giuseppe Arcimboldi.
In the right transept is the entrance to the Serpero Museum which houses the treasury with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, and the Late Antique ivory Poet and Muse diptych, of about 500, as well as an internationally important collection of late antique and early medieval works of various kinds, many deposited by Theodelinda herself. These include small metal 6th century ampullae from the Holy Land which are evidence of the emerging iconography of medieval art, among them the earliest depictions of the treatments of the Crucifixion and Nativity of Jesus in art that were to become standard throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. Only Bobbio has an equivalent collection of ampullae. The library holds a number of old and important illuminated manuscripts.
Apart the Iron Crown, the most famous attraction of the church is the Chapel of Theodelinda. It has 15th-century frescoes from the Zavattari workshop depicting the stories of the queen's life, such as the dove episode, her marriage proposal, her meeting with her first husband, Authari, the latter's death in battle, and her new marriage with Agilulf. All the figures are portrayed with rich garments typical of the Visconti era.
The vault is decorated with 14th century figures of saints and evangelists enthroned. On the outer arch are depicted Theodelinda with her court venerating Saint John the Baptist.
An ancient and unusual privilege of the Duomo is its right to employ ceremonial armed guards, rather on the line of the Papal Swiss Guard at the Vatican. Known as Alabardieri from the halberds they carry, the date of their institution is described in a 1763 edict of Maria Theresa of Austria as ‘immemorial’. Their eighteenth-century style uniform, of blue wool with gold braiding and a belt buckle with an image of the Iron Crown, is unchanged from that approved in the edict, except that since the Napoleonic period the bicorne hat has replaced the earlier tricorne.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.