What it is and where it is
Walking through the historic center along C.so Garigaldi, we come to Piazza del Popolo, where we stand in front of the Corbetta parish church. It is an imposing neoclassical-style complex that, I am told, stands on an earlier medieval building of which some traces remain, along the side walls of the church. The square embraces the church around which are the tall bell tower on the right and the war memorial on the left.
Why it is special
For more than a thousand years it has been the focal point of religion in Corbetta since, historically, it was the seat of the head provostry pieve, a territorial entity into which the archdiocese of Milan was divided. This pivotal role is also told by the many architectural examples found inside and outside San Vittore: Roman traces, a medieval crypt, the splendid neoclassical facade, and on up to the majestic bell tower. Standing 71 meters high, it is one of the highest points in western Milan, from which, on a clear day, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the main spire of Milan Cathedral.
Not to be missed
The crypt is the reason why the high altar is raised above the rest of the nave. Inside it are traces of a pagan temple dating back to the third century AD and subsequent architectural stratifications, tombs and artifacts writable to the year 1000. It is a precious jewel, but it is accessible only on May 8 during the patronal feast. Inside the church, the style changes, and I find the pure neoclassical baptistery in which Luigi Maria Oliveras, later bishop of Sutri and Nepi, declared venerable by John Paul II in 2004, was baptized in 1873.
A bit of history
The origins of the parish church of Corbetta date back to a third-century pagan temple on which from the early Middle Ages a proper church with a basilica layout was built. During the 500s the first restoration and enlargements were necessary, which brought to light the crypt under the altar. The church was then completely rebuilt beginning in the late 1700s in the neoclassical style as it still appears today, and was consecrated in 1891 by Paul Angelo Ballerini, titular patriarch of Alexandria. It towers above the bell tower built on a medieval structure and complemented by a concert of eight bells.
In June 1902, the bell tower collapsed as a result of the excessive weight brought to the structure by recent elevation work on the medieval tower: it had been raised to a height of 82 meters and was rebuilt in 1908 to a height of 71. According to one legend, the Madonna of Corbetta with her mantle wrapped the tower during the collapse, preventing it from falling on the church or the square in front of it. During the collapse a carved angel miraculously remained unharmed and went to be placed in the garden of the nearby little castle. Also in June 1902, 15 days after Corbetta, the bell tower of St. Mark's in Venice collapsed.
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