According to certain sources, it might have its origins as far back as the fifth or sixth century, but since then the Pescia Cathedral has changed dramatically. One of the first traces of its existence can be seen in a document from 857. Just a few centuries later, the Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Mary of the Assumption, was completely rebuilt after a fire that destroyed the city in 1281. Dating back to that time are some traces of the city walls: the bell tower, in fact, is believed to have its origins in an earlier tower standing along the city walls, modified with the the addition of mullioned windows in 1306. The small dome over it is a 1771 addition. The rest of the current elements date back to 1684, when, through a project by Antonio Maria Ferri, the entire church was rebuilt after the collapse of the dome, which destroyed most of the medieval building. The original Latin cross plan was then substituted with a single-nave structure with side chapels, topped off with a dome. The neoclassical-style facade remained unfinished up until the end of the 19th century. It was completed in 1933 with the addition of a marble portal. The higher segment has a large arched window and ends with an elaborate pediment.
The interior, with a vaulted ceiling, has many marble architectural elements that stand out against the cream colour of the plaster. Among the works worth noting is Giuseppe Bottani’s Nativity of the Virgin, a prestigious 18th century painting housed in the Forti Chapel. Moving along, on the right you’ll find the Turini Chapel, completed in the Renaissance style. On the Altar of the Holy Sacrament you’ll find the Madonna of the Canopy by Pier Dandini, a copy of the original by Raphael, which was located here until 1697. On the side, there’s the mausoleum of Bishop Baldassarre Turini, by Raffaello da Montelupo. The sculpture of Turini is by Pierino da Vinci, Leonardo’s nephew. The seventeenth century high altar is by Giuseppe Vaccà and was financed by the famous opera singer Giovanni Francesco Grossi, known as ‘Siface.’ On the left side of the church, a painting by Anton Domenico Gabbiani hangs in the Cecchi Chapel, which is dedicated to Saint Lawrence. In the final chapel, once the seat of the Baptistery, you’ll see a painting by Romano Stefanelli (1985) on the altar. Stefanelli was one of Pietro Annigoni’s students.
[For more information: www.diocesidipescia.it]