CREMONA, a city and episcopal see of Lombardy, Italy, the capital of the province of Cremona, situated on the N. bank of the Po, 155 ft. above sea-level, 60 m. by rail S.E. of Milan. Pop. (1901) town, 31,655; commune, 39,344. It is oval in shape, and retains its medieval fortifications. The line of the streets is as a rule irregular, but the town as a whole is not very picturesque.
The finest building is the cathedral, in the Lombard Romanesque style, begun in 1107 and consecrated in 1190. The wheel window of the main façade dates from 1274. The transepts, added in the 13th and 14th centuries (before 1370), have picturesque brick façades, with fine terra-cotta ornamentation. The great Torrazzo, a tower 397 ft. high, which stands by the cathedral, and is connected with it by a series of galleries, dates from 1267-1291. It is square below, with an octagonal summit of a slightly later period. The main façade of the cathedral was largely altered in 1491, to which date the statues upon it belong; the portico in front was added in 1497. The building would be much improved by isolation, which it is hoped may be effected. The interior is fine, and is covered with frescoes by Cremonese masters of the 16th century (Boccaccio Boccaccino, Romanino, Pordenone, the Campi, etc.), which are not of first-rate importance. The choir has fine stalls of 1489-1490, upon one of which there is a view of the façade of the cathedral before its alteration in 1491. The treasury contains a richly worked silver crucifix 9 ft. high, of 1478, the base of which was added in 1774-1775. It contains 408 statues and busts altogether, the central three of which belong to an earlier cross of 1231. Adjacent to the cathedral is the octagonal baptistery of 1167, 92 ft. in height and 75 ft. in external diameter, also in the Lombard Romanesque style. The so-called Campo Santo, close to the baptistery, contains a mosaic pavement with emblematic figures belonging probably to the 8th and 9th centuries, and running under the cathedral. Of the other churches, S. Michele has a simple and good Lombard Romanesque 13th-century façade, and a plain interior of the 10th century; and S. Agata a good campanile in the former style. Many of them contain paintings by the later Cremonese masters, especially Galeazzo Campi (d. 1536) and his sons Giulio and Antonio. The latter are especially well represented in S. Sigismondo, 1 m. outside the town to the E. On the side of the Piazza del Comune opposite to the cathedral are two 13th-century Gothic palaces in brick, the Palazzo Comunale and the former Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, now the seat of the commissioners for the water regulation of the district. Another palace of the same period is now occupied by the Archivio Notarile. The modern Palazzo Ponzoni contains a museum and a technical institute. In front of it is a statue of the composer Amilcare Ponchielli, who was a native of Cremona. The Palazzo Fodri, now the Monte di Pietà, has a beautiful 15th-century frieze of terra-cotta bas-reliefs, as have some other palaces in private hands.
Cremona was founded by the Romans in 218 B.C. (the same year as Placentia) as an outpost against the Gallic tribes. It was strengthened in 190 B.C. by the sending of 6000 new settlers and soon became one of the most flourishing towns of upper Italy. It probably acquired municipal rights in 90 B.C., but Augustus, owing to the fact that it did not support him, assigned a part of its territory to his veterans in 41 B.C., and henceforth it is once more called colonia. It remained prosperous (we may note that Virgil came here to school from Mantua) until it was taken and destroyed by the troops of Vespasian after the second battle of Betriacum (Bedriacum) in A.D. 69; the temple of Mefitis alone being left standing (see Tacitus, Hist. iii. 15 seq.). One of the bronze plates which decorated the exterior of the war-chest of the legio III. Macedonica, one of the legions which had been defeated at Betriacum, has been found near Cremona itself (F. Barnabei in Notiz. scavi, 1887, p. 210). Vespasian ordered its immediate reconstruction, but it never recovered its former prosperity, though its position on the N. bank of the Po, at the meeting-point of roads from Placentia, Mantua (the Via Postumia in both cases), Brixellum (where the roads from Cremona and Mantua to Parma met and crossed the river), Laus Pompeia and Brixia, still gave it considerable importance. It was destroyed once more by the Lombards under Agilulf in A.D. 605, and rebuilt in 615, and was ruled by dukes; but in the 9th century the bishops of Cremona began to acquire considerable temporal power. Landulf, a German to whom the see was granted by Henry II., was driven out in 1022, and his palace destroyed, but other Germans were invested with the see afterwards. The commune of Cremona is first mentioned in a document of 1098, recording its investiture by the countess Matilda with the territory known as Isola Fulcheria. It had to sustain many wars with its neighbours in order to maintain itself in its new possessions. In the war of the Lombard League against Barbarossa, Cremona, after having shared in the destruction of Crema in 1160 and Milan in 1162, finally joined the league, but took no part in the battle of Legnano, and thus procured itself the odium of both sides. In the Guelph and Ghibelline struggles Cremona took the latter side, and defeated Parma decisively in 1250. It was during this period that Cremona erected its finest buildings. There was, however, a Guelph reaction in 1264; the city was taken and sacked by Henry VII. in 1311, and was a prey to struggles between the two parties, until Galeazzo Visconti took possession of it in 1322. In 1406 it fell under the sway of Cabrino Fondulo, who received with great festivities both the emperor Sigismund and Pope John XXIII., the latter on his way to the council at Constance; he, however, handed it over to Filippo Maria Visconti in 1419. In 1499 it was occupied by Venetians, but in 1512 it came under Massimiliano Sforza. In 1535, like the rest of Lombardy, it fell under Spanish domination, and was compelled to furnish large money contributions. The population fell to 10,000 in 1668. The surprise of the French garrison on the 2nd of February 1702, by the Imperialists under Prince Eugene, was a celebrated incident of the War of the Spanish Succession. The Imperialists were driven from Cremona after a sharp struggle, but captured Marshal Villeroi, the French commander. Hence the celebrated verse:
"Français, rendons grâce à Bellone;
Notre bonheur est sans égal;
Nous avons conservé Cremoneé,
Et perdu notre général."
In the 18th century the prosperity of Cremona revived. In the Italian republic it was the capital of the department of the upper Po. Like the rest of Lombardy it fell under Austria in 1814, and became Italian in 1859.
See Guida di Cremona (Cremona, 1904).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)