In the Brembana Valley, there where the Emma stream meets the Brembo river, lies the town of San Giovanni Bianco, which still retains strong traits as an ancient medieval village. It is a place that has many stories to tell. Among them, a rather adventurous one connects the parish church of San Giovanni and the ancient market square, now Piazza Zignoni. Right here is a bronze statue supported by a stone plinth depicting a man-at-arms holding a spear in his left hand and what looks like a reliquary in his right. On the plinth a cartouche introduces us to this personage: Vistallo Zignoni.
Lights and shadows of a character who became a symbol
Vistallo Zignoni was a soldier and mercenary who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries. Born into an important family in the Brembana Valley, he soon demonstrated his impetuousness, to the point that he was banished from the entire territory of the Serenissima because of a murder he committed in his youth. He thus found himself forced to enlist in the service of the marquis of Mantua, embarking on the military career that would lead him to fight in the Battle of Fornovo sul Taro, against the king of France, Charles VIII. This very episode was the key to reversing his fate: in fact, it seems that in battle he found a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, the precious relic of the Passion of Christ guarded by Charles VIII. It was precisely the Holy Th orn that counted as a bargaining chip in order to have the ban lifted, which was effectively suspended for a period of a hundred years.
Symbols of the village
In 1895, four hundred years after the arrival of the Sacred Thorn in the village, the municipality of San Giovanni Bianco decided to dedicate to Vistallo Zignoni, once an exile, then a symbol of redemption and honor, the bronze statue made by Milanese sculptor Giuseppe Broggi, which still tells of his exploits from the market square. The Holy Thorn, on the other hand, is carefully kept in the parish church of San Giovanni Bianco.
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