Fossano, the birth of a city

 

Fossano originated, as many of the medieval towns in lower Piedmont did, in the first three decades of the thirteenth century as a villa nova. It started off as an aggregation of guilds coming in from the surrounding lands who were soon joined by the collegiate of canons from the neighboring Roman town of Romanisium. An epigraph in sandstone, now part of the municipal building, attests the construction of the Sarmatoria gate in 1236, the first defensive structure of the town in its early decades.

 

In the podestarile age the new community settled on an elevated position, partly protected by the promontory under which the river Stura flows. Today one can walk along the natural defensive flanks of the ancient town: a congenial place from which one can admire the chain of the Maritime Alps and the hills of the Langhe.

 

The three neighborhoods of the old medieval village, the Borgo Vecchio, Salice and Piazza, were characterized by winding streets, low houses, and narrow porticos. The parish church of San Giorgio and the noble church of San Giovanni were the first to be built. Then came the Padano Gothic style church of the Madonna del Salice, subject to recent archeological investigations, and the now destroyed convent of San Francesco. The building expansion of the period developed on a straight road plant, with the palaces of the local patricians facing the street.

 

The domination of the princes of Savoia Achaia starting from 1314 influenced the expansion of the town and led to the construction of the castle, as well as the construction of the defensive walls in the sixteenth century. The bastion of the Salice testifies the ancient imposing fortress of Fossano, which was promoted to the rank of city in 1566. It was considered one of the most significant strongholds and urban centers of the Duchy of Savoy.

 

Its upgrade to diocese at the end of the sixteenth century and the flourishing agricultural economy favored the establishment of religious orders in the subsequent centuries, of a college for nobility, of the Royal Hospice of Charity, of silk and other factories. Industry was favored throughout the Old Regime by the dense water network which, was channeled under the initial orders of Emanuele Filiberto in 1568.

It is the most fervid period for art and architecture: the Baroque church of San Filippo, the eighteenth-century Trinity, the adjoining monumental hospital designed by Francesco Gallo, the church of Saint Anthony designed by Vittone, the bishop’s seminary which now houses the diocesan museum of sacred art, and the new Quarinian cathedral consecrated in 1791 were all built around that time.

The castle of the Acaia 

The castle was built by Filippo di Savoia, prince of Acaia, in the decade following the submission of Fossano in 1314.

The original purpose of the castle was to represent the new lordly power whose rule lasted until 1418 for lack of heirs.

The Dukes of Savoy later gave the building a residential function, creating a gallery with marble columns, and larger rooms on the upper floors. In the sixteenth century the castle was home to the Duchess Bona di Savoia for three years, the dukes of Savoy on several occasions, the royal ladies in the following century, and was turned into a prison for thousands of Waldensians, during the religious persecutions.

In the 18th century it was used as a barracks and was flanked by two impressive buildings, which were demolished in the 1960s when the castle was renovated and used as a cultural center.