An architectural and artistic jewel to be discovered


In the ancient village of Bobbio, not far from the famous Ponte Gobbo , stands the Cathedral or Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta , one of the most important Romanesque-style buildings in the historic center which developed around the area of the Abbey of San Colombano and Piazza del Duomo.


The church was a cathedral until 1986, before becoming a co-cathedral of the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio, as well as the seat of the Vicariate of Bobbio, Alta Val Trebbia, Aveto and Oltre Penice. The Duomo complex includes, together with the cathedral, the Bishop's Palace and the annexed Diocesan Museum, the Gardens and the Oratory, and the Old Seminary, which today houses the Bobbiensi Historical Archives, inside which the beautiful seventeenth-century cloister is visible .


The history of the Church


In 1075 the bishop Conte Guarnerio decided to move the seat of the Diocese of Bobbio to the new cathedral. Previously, the bishop's seat was born in 1014 on the initiative of Abbot Pietroaldo, who still resided at the Abbey. In that year, in fact, the Diocese of Bobbio was created, by the will of Pope Benedict VIII and of Emperor Henry II, with the aim of protecting the assets of the ancient Monastery of San Colombano , on which the claims of the bishops hung of Piacenza, Pavia and Tortona. In 1017 Bishop Attone moved his residence to the ancient Basilica of San Pietro.


The construction of the cathedral began in 1070, and the works lasted five years. Its appearance remained unchanged until the thirteenth century, with the Chapel of San Giovanni , a structure with three naves and a circular apse. The roof was initially built with exposed wooden trusses, while the left tower was used for the bell function. Originally, then, access to the building was ensured by an external staircase placed between the level of the square, which at the time was lower, and the internal floor.


Subsequently, the floor was raised, the arms of the transept were lengthened and, finally, the vaulted roof was completed, with the disappearance of the exposed trusses. The construction of the Chapel of San Michele dates back to 1370, located in the right aisle, which today retains traces of fourteenth-century painting, while in 1378 the mullioned window of the right tower was added.


In 1448, work began on the creation of the crypt, and in 1463 the new facade was built, with the alignment of the side towers and the raising of the square. In 1532 other works led to the modification of the crowning of the southern tower. In 1572 the right tower was raised, and there was placed the clock and an ancient bell that was previously in the main tower of San Colombano . The main altar, however, was donated by Carlo Emanuele II and consecrated in 1750.


Architectural and artistic qualities of the Cathedral


Over the centuries, the building has undergone numerous changes , renovations and extensions, so that only the bases of the two side towers and part of the perimeter walls with their relative arches and decorations remain of the original Romanesque layout.


The church has three entrance doors, a central portal and a large rose window, all framed by two bell towers: the left one is the actual bell tower, the right one instead protects the clock. The access to the building is accomplished by going down the steps, since the level of the square was raised. The plan of the basilica , with three naves with a Latin cross, is delimited by perimeter chapels covered by cross vaults.


A part of the frescoes inside the church of Santa Maria Assunta are dated to the end of the 19th century, and bear the signature of Luigi Morgari , to which are added the Byzantine-style decorations made by Aristide Sacchi in 1896. The flooring instead, was redone in 1905 by the will of Bishop Porratti. The frescoes in the Cappella Maggiore and the Presbytery are more ancient, by the Lombard painter Francesco Porro, dating back to 1723.


In the Chapel of San Sebastiano , built in 1498, the pavement and frescoes of the early 1500s are still visible, as well as a window that was built to assist the faithful to worship at a distance during a plague epidemic. On the bottom, there is a fragment of a 14th century fresco depicting the Crucifixion, on the left the tombstone of the Giorgi family, with an inscription in memory of "Janote", who died in 1462.


Then there is the Baptistery , with the baptismal font by the Piacenza sculptor Paolo Perotti, and the chapels dating back to the 16th century dedicated to Saints Giovanni and Franca, which respectively house a seventeenth-century painting of the Guardian Angel by Carlo Francesco Nuvoloni, and a fresco by Crucifixion with Mary and John the evangelist.


The Chapel of San Giuseppe , with 16th century frescoes, preserves a painting by the Genoese painter Mattia Traverso, while in the Suffragio Chapel there is a "Crucifixion" by Luigi Morgari. In the Chapel of San Giovanni Battista , however, the splendid fresco of the "Annunciation", dating back to the fifteenth century, was brought to light in 1981 together with other older frescoes, such as the "Coronation of the Madonne". In the crypt, at the bottom of the flights of stairs, all the bishops of Bobbio rest since 1600.


Finally, there is a curiosity that cannot fail to attract the attention of fans of the genre. In the Cathedral of Bobbio there is also a painting with a "curious" representation of the Last Supper, the author of which is unknown. In the painting appears a Saint John asleep and depicted with vaguely feminine features. In this regard, someone has put forward the hypothesis that to be depicted in the fresco would actually be Mary Magdalene . A similar representation is also present in the Church of San Giuliano, always in the Piacenza area.


The Duomo complex


Santa Maria Assunta is part of the Duomo complex which includes, in addition to the square surrounded by ancient noble palaces, and some different public buildings.


It dates back to the 11th century. The Palazzo Vescovile , adjacent to the cathedral, which houses the offices of the Curia and the Bishopric and the gardens. On the second floor there is the Salone dei Vescovi, on whose walls there are portraits of all the bishops of Bobbio.


The Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral finds space in a wing of the Bishop's Palace, and proposes itself with an exhibition itinerary of ten rooms that tell the history of the Diocese, also through maps and ancient documents, reliquaries and a mural painting, dating back to the '700, depicting the Adoration of the Magi.


The Old Seminary is a seventeenth-century building that housed, until 1960, the city seminary, which today is home to the Bobiense Historical Archives , and opens through a cloister designed in 1663 by Lucino da Milano. The archives preserve parchments and codices dated from the 9th to the 15th century, as well as all the library heritage of the Abbey of San Colombano reproduced in microfilm.

The cathedral square


The church overlooks the beautiful Piazza Duomo, surrounded by palaces built over the centuries by the noble families of the city. Palazzo Olmi is also noteworthy, now home to the Municipality of Bobbio. The building dates back to the fifteenth century, and was previously the seat of the Monastery of Santa Chiara. Until the eleventh century, however, the town hall was located in the Palazzo Podestarile, dating back to 1226, still partially visible, to the left of the church tower. In that building, in 1342, the Municipal Statutes were signed but was largely demolished to facilitate the expansion of the Cathedral. In front of Palazzo Olmi there is the Contrada dei Buelli, with the homonymous palace that belonged to the Buelli family, whose coat of arms is still visible on the facade. Here also stood the ancient restaurant "La Paolina", of which the sign is still visible.


The urban area surrounding the Cathedral preserves, like the whole village of the ancient town of Piacenza, a splendid medieval atmosphere . Here too, in fact, the characteristics of the medieval village remain unaltered, and its ancient fabric made of narrow streets, narrow streets with the characteristic cobblestones, stone buildings and stately mansions.


The arcades of the Contrada del Castellaro


Moving from Piazza del Duomo, you quickly reach one of the most fascinating and characteristic corners of Bobbio: the ancient arcades of the Contrada del Castellaro. The Portici are located on the road that goes from the Duomo to the Ponte Gobbo .


Their structure is distinguished by irregular arches and low buildings, all in dark stone, located below street level. The buildings of this part of the village once housed the ancient shops of the city: the craftsmen worked on the view, while on the upper floor there were the pantries, where cheeses and salami could be smoked using the fumes from the stoves below.

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