The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta: the largest religious building in Piedmont.
"If Asti had known how to last in harmony, perhaps the Po would have had to envy the Tanaro as the capital of Piedmont". (C. Vassallo). Asti was a rich and powerful city, the historian Carlo Vassallo is right, it is a prosperous city in terms of trade and finances. It is enough to walk along Corso Alfieri, the ancient Via Fulvia, to start perceiving an extraordinary past. But the true symbol of this past can be found behind the elegant Palazzo Alfieri and that is, without any doubt, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which, together with the Baptismal Church of San Giovanni and the canons' cloisters, forms the Episcopal Complex of the Cathedral. With a longitudinal length of 86.50 metres and a height of 24 metres, the Cathedral of Asti is the result of seven hundred years of construction and renovation, and is one of the best expressions of Lombard Gothic architecture. Its foundations tell an ancient story to the extent that, even today, the entire complex is the subject of archaeological studies and research has brought to light the remains of a Roman necropolis over which the whole site stands.
It is impressive and welcoming: a great church in which you could lose yourself and let your emotions guide you.
Therefore, while Europe was being adorned with spires, marble and battlements, Asti rebuilt its cathedral in the 14th century on the ashes of an earlier church destroyed in a fire. The exterior is striking for its elegance and the unique features of its lines, rose windows, large portals and the symbolism of all the decorations. But if the exterior is impressive, the interior is literally breathtaking. Three naves, in the shape of a Latin cross, very high, decorated in every centimetre and punctuated by slender columns embellished with floral decorations: dense, yet not cluttered, it feels like crossing a redwood forest which becomes more vivid thanks to the light coming in through the three rose windows and the polychrome stained glass windows. Your gaze is drawn up to the sky, to a space that does not loom over you, but rather embraces you as if it were a familiar and natural environment, a place designed to restore and welcome the souls of the people of Asti and of foreigners. The Cathedral of Asti, with its biblical ark-like structure, is actually in the heart of one of the districts which, in the history of the city, has been able to manage the many migratory flows that have characterized these lands, in a constant process of integration.
Steeped in art, it should be explored slowly: nothing has been left to chance, everything has something to tell.
It tells a story through its art preserved in its naves, apse and chapels, as well as its stoups, capitals, mosaics, sculptures and every single decoration. It enchants with the sound of its two organs, which fill the entire district with solemn notes on festive days. It marks the rhythm of the people of Asti when nine bells toll in its mighty Romanesque bell tower dating back to 1266. A cathedral, but also a district to be discovered by wandering through its alleyways, in-between the palaces that define it (Verasis, Zoya, Mazzola, Amico, Alfieri, Mazzetti, to name but a few), until you finally reach the ruins of what is left of the medieval city walls.