The birth of the city is due to its strategic position at the mouth of six valleys communicating with Liguria and France. The first stable settlements date back to the end of the 12th century, when the free municipality was founded, which lasted until the mid-1200s, when it surrendered to Charles of Anjou. In the 1300s Cuneo passed to the Savoys. In the following two centuries the city was engaged in 7 sieges (4 of which against the French), of which only two ended with its capitulation.
For centuries, it has remained closed within its walls, which were demolished only during the Napoleonic occupation. This allowed for an expansion of the urban fabric. In the years of the Second World War, Cuneo and Cuneo were the scene of anti-fascist and partisan struggles, among which the partisan hero of Cuneo Duccio Galimberti, shot by the fascists in 1944, to whom the city dedicated its most important square, stood out.
Most of the medieval testimonies of the city have been erased by the numerous sieges and destruction that suffered in its history.
Today, Cuneo presents itself with a predominantly Baroque aspect of the 17th and 18th centuries. Cuneo is an important agricultural, commercial and industrial center, a center for the exchange of products from the valleys and the plains.
The oldest nucleus, and historical center, is characterized by a checkerboard layout that, starting from the top of the imaginary cùneo (piazza Torino), runs along a median road (via Roma) which leads onto a large square: Piazza Galimberti.
Beyond the natural beauty, many others are the attractions of the Cuneo area.
Thanks to its position, the territory has been an area of passage and meeting between different populations and cultures; it was crossed by the most important itineraries of the medieval pilgrimage: the way of San Giacomo and the via Francigena and over the centuries it has been disputed by large families.
It therefore encloses centuries of history, as is evident from its artistic and cultural heritage: castles and towers, which are now an integral part of the landscape, villas and princely residences, wonderful abbeys such as that of Staffarda.
Let’s begin our virtual tour of this fascinating city!
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Bosco
Santa Maria del Bosco, a small Benedictine oratory under the abbey of Pedona, became one of the most important parishes of Cuneo after the erection of the Diocese of Mondovì in 1388. In 1683, the church was able to host as many as fourteen altars belonging not only to the noble families of the city, but also to the various craft guilds (shoemakers, weavers, winemakers, etc.)
The building underwent various interventions along the course of the seventeenth century, such as reconstruction, following the collapse of the dome in 1656, on a project by Giovenale Boetto, from 1657-62.
In fact, on Christmas night in 1656, the vault of the church collapsed ruinously: the reconstruction took place in grandiose forms based on a design by Giovenale Boetto: the foundation stone was laid on March 18, 1657, in 1662 it was already officiated and on October 25, 1665 it was solemnly consecrated. The church overcame the eighteenth-century sieges and the closure at the time of the French revolution; with the demolition of the fortifications in 1801 it came to be at the heart of urban development. Also for this reason, in 1817, with the elevation of Cuneo to a bishopric, it became a cathedral. Restoration and landscaping began, with the formation of the dome designed by Stefano Rovere. Between 1863 and 1866, with the construction of the neoclassical facade designed by Antonio Bono, the cathedral was ideally connected to the nearby large square (today Piazza Galimberti). The last significant intervention was the construction of the crypt for the sepulchres of bishops in 1968.
Having escaped the demolition of the city walls by the French, the church became a cathedral with the establishment of the diocese in 1817.
In 1863-66, with the construction of the neoclassical facade, the building came to connect with the arcades and ideally with the nearby square (today Piazza Galimberti). Numerous works that deserve particular attention inside the church: the stone baptismal font of 1490, attributed to the workshop of the Zabreri, the splendid stalls of the eighteenth-century choir and the imposing altar of the Rosary chapel, with red marble spiral columns, coming from the church of Sant’Agostino di Mondovì.
Among the works of painting, the choir altarpiece with the Madonna and Child and Saints Michael, John the Baptist by Andrea Pozzo and the seventeenth-century paintings of the chapel of San Giuseppe attributed to Caravoglia are particularly important. Noteworthy is the eighteenth-century wooden crucifix attributed to Plura and preserved in the homonymous chapel.
Sanctuary of the Madonna degli Angeli
The Sanctuary of the Madonna degli Angeli, since its origins, has been a point of reference for the city. It can be reached by going along the almost three kilometers of the homonymous avenue, a destination for Sunday walks in the Cuneo area.
The construction of the avenue dates back to the mid-eighteenth century and is an early example of “French avenue”, then almost unknown in northern Italy, which provided for a large central sliding road (over 21 meters wide) flanked by a double tree-lined avenue on the sides, for the walk.
The church overlooks a large garden, in which stands the large cross with the instruments of the Passion of Christ; the balcony that runs along the eastern side offers a suggestive view of the Gesso and the Bisalta. Externally the building well represents Franciscan sobriety: it has a simple gabled facade preceded by a three-arched portico.
Already on the entrance portal you can see, repeated several times, the emblem of the Caissotti family that promoted the eighteenth-century renewal of the sanctuary; other versions of the same coat of arms will be found inside the building. On the outskirts of the city then made up of meadows and chestnut trees, there was a shrine dedicated to the Madonna, already the subject of a fervent devotion.
Probably around the thirties of the fifteenth century, a man of Spanish origin named Alfonso Galindres settled near this site who built a small oratory that could house him and those who wanted to lead a prayer existence with him.
In the middle of the century, this place became one of the main religious poles of the city; from here passed some of the most important preachers of the time and in a short time the convent became the first monastery of the Minor Observants in Piedmont.
The church preserves the body of Blessed Angelo Carletti from Chivasso, moved in 1535 from the ancient convent of Sant’Antonio, destroyed for the amplification of the walls of the city of Cuneo in 1537, and the bones of the Venerable Benigno from Cuneo.
The Civic Tower, 52 meters high, stands in the historic center overlooking the city.
It has a square base of about 6 meters on each side, with walls two meters thick. From the bell cell, you can enjoy a wonderful panorama that from the roofs and squares of the city opens onto the gentle reliefs of the Langhe to chase the mountains up to the summit of Monte Rosa.
An ancient tradition states that it was erected after the peace treaty between Cuneo and Mondovì on June 15, 1317, with which King Roberto d’Angiò, lord of the County of Piedmont, ordered the Monregalese to raise the Civic Tower of the Cuneo. This, however, can only be a legend, since, during the domination of the Anjou, Cuneo was never at war with Mondovì.
In addition, one of the oldest documents preserved in the municipal historical archive reports that the City Council was convened as early as 1240 to the sound of the “more usual” civic bell (as usual). In 1574, another larger bell was added to the present bell.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the entrance hall to the Civic Tower on the ground floor was used as a public weight: it later became a flower shop.
In 1945, the bell rang to celebrate the Liberation of Cuneo from the Nazi-fascists thanks to the Partisans and to accompany the funeral of the fallen Partisans.
On November 4, 1968, for the 50th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the bell was dedicated to the memory of the Fallen of all wars and a plaque was placed on the facade of the former Civic Palace.
The current appearance of the Tower is the result of the restoration works promoted by the Civic Administration to celebrate the eighth centenary of the foundation of the city of Cuneo (1198-1998), which brought its splendour to light.
To reach the top, if you don’t use the lift, you have to walk 132 steps.
Civic Museum of Cuneo
The Civic Museum of Cuneo was originally located at Palazzo Audiffredi in via Cacciatori delle Alpi, and around 1980 was moved and rearranged in the current site of the monumental complex of San Francesco.
The internal itineraries of the Museum unwind starting from the oldest evidence of prehistory to reach those of the modern age and tell the visitor the history of the area.
The museum houses a rich specialist library, updated on all issues relating to cultural heritage.
Topographic, cartographic and photographic archives are available to the public, including the Vacchetta and the Scoffone funds.
The Civic Museum of Cuneo is housed within the suggestive setting of the Monumental Complex of S. Francesco, including the former convent and the adjoining church, classified as a national monument and rare architectural testimony of the medieval era in the city.
In this place, probably already from the thirteenth century, the Franciscan friars settled; especially since the fifteenth century the complex becomes an important reference point for all Cuneo citizenship and noble families participate with huge donations in the embellishment and expansion of the structure.
Napoleon’s army took over the building, chased the friars and used the church and convent as a military barracks and garrison; the furnishings are dispersed in other religious buildings or sold.
After ups and downs and various changes in use, since 1980 the entire complex has been used as a place for cultural activities and houses the headquarters of the Civic Museum.
Piazza Tancredi Galimberti, the main square of Cuneo, is also called the Cuneo living room and has an area of almost 24,000 square meters overlooked by the seat of the city court. The market takes place there on Tuesday, one of the first in Italy by influx.
The thing that strikes the visitor about the square, in addition to its size, is the possibility it gives to see part of the mountains that surround the city. If you look towards Corso Nizza, your gaze rests on the reliefs of the Argentera massif: whitened by the snow in winter and a dark color during the summer, this alpine horizon helps to strengthen the natural bond between Cuneo and the its valleys.
Piazza Galimberti was built around 1800, after the demolition of the walls by Napoleonic troops. It must have been half of its current size but, due to the importance of the sale of silk in the citadel, its size was doubled, also in order to make the city breathe, which over time had increased its population, expanding in a southerly direction. west.
On May 21, 1945, the square was named after the hero of the Italian Resistance, Tancredi (Duccio) Galimberti, born in Cuneo in 1906 and killed by the fascists on December 3, 1944. At No. 6 is located, in what was his home, the Museum and Library of the Galimberti family. Outside the arcades in front of the museum, a plaque contains a quote from the famous speech that Duccio Galimberti gave on July 26, 1943 from the terrace of his home.
The statue in the center of the square depicts Giuseppe Barbaroux, royal sealkeeper.
The square, built in neoclassical style, recalls, with columns in relief on the walls of the ten surrounding palaces, connected by terraces in groups of five, the Greek temples and, the arcades around it, reminiscent of the ancient Roman triumphal arches.
It is surrounded by buildings built in neoclassical style and surrounded by arcades: an essential architectural element for the elegant Cuneo and which allows you to not stop walking even when it rains or snows.
Monumental complex of San Francesco
The monumental complex of San Francesco is located in Cuneo and includes the former convent and the adjoining former church. It has been classified as a national monument and rare architectural testimony of the medieval era in the city.
In this place, already from the thirteenth century, the Franciscan friars settled; from the fifteenth century the complex became an important point of reference for all Cuneo citizenship and noble families participated with huge donations in the embellishment and expansion of the structure.
Later, Napoleon’s army took over the building, drove out the friars and used the church and convent as a military barracks and garrison; the furnishings are dispersed in other religious buildings or sold. After ups and downs and several changes in use, since 1980 the entire complex has been used as a place for cultural activities and houses the headquarters of the Civic Museum.
Already towards the end of the thirteenth century a first chapel was built by the Franciscans, later a new and large monument of worship was built in the historic heart of Cuneo in the early fifteenth century. Families and companies linked to the confreres immediately began to buy the patronage of the altars and to decorate the chapels; thus, in 1583, Monsignor Gerolamo Scarampi saw a rich and complete building, with altars decorated with sacred icons and frescoed chapels.
In the seventeenth century, the portico of the cloister was rebuilt, the lunettes with Stories of San Francesco were frescoed and some chapels in typical Baroque style were added to the church.
With the end of the eighteenth century, the most troubled period for the monument opened: after strong alterations, the Napoleonic government turned it into a military district. During this period many of the precious furnishings inside the monument and the nearby convent were dispersed, which was definitively abandoned by the Franciscan friars minor in 1851, the year of suppression of the conventual community. Later, the Cuneo military district established its headquarters in the cloister of the convent, using the church as a warehouse.
In 1928-1929, the first restoration of the facade was carried out; the Municipality purchased the building in 1967 immediately providing for a general restoration and rehabilitation work. In the seventies and eighties, the city administration again financed other recovery and archaeological excavations.
The church of San Francesco is now usable following a long series of renovation and restoration works, started in 2009, carried out thanks to the generous contribution of the Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo Foundation and directed by the superintendencies for architectural assets, for assets historical, artistic and archaeological heritage of Piedmont
The museum houses a rich specialist library, updated on all issues relating to cultural heritage. Topographic, cartographic and photographic archives are available to the public, including the Vacchetta and the Scoffone funds.
Church of San Sebastiano
The church of San Sebastiano is located in the place where the ancient church of San Giacomo once stood, whose Confraternity was extinct at the end of the fifteenth century, with the confluence of the cult of the saint of the new Company.
Following the wartime events of 1557, the building was rebuilt, first with the construction of the choir by the masters Fontana and Scala in 1595 and later on the facade (1621), until the consecration took place in 1625. A third devotion had meanwhile added to that of Saints Giacomo and Sebastiano: the Madonna del Carmine.
Further works were carried out between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the extension of the classroom that brought the facade flush with the road (1663), the construction of the sacristy and the Council room in the thirties of the eighteenth century, and the remaking of the choir and presbytery.
Here, some of the greatest artists and craftsmen of the moment intervened: the Lugano from Beltramelli for the high altar and the stuccos, the quadraturist Pier Antonio Pozzi and the figurine artist Alessandro Trono for the decoration of the vault. Further extensions were made in the 19th century, with the construction of the two side chapels and the dome, the completion of the neo-Gothic facade.
Among the works that are preserved inside the church, the choir altarpiece with the Crucifix between saints Giacomo, Sebastiano and two confreres from Molineri (1625), also the author of the four evangelists in the niches of the presbytery vault, and the wooden statues processionals of San Sebastiano and Madonna del Carmine.
Among the important objects of this church it is no longer possible, unfortunately, to admire a beautiful carved wooden cupboard, stolen from the sacristy in recent times.
Since September 2013, the church has been an integral part of the San Sebastiano Diocesan Museum itinerary.