We propose here some short itineraries for those who have never visited Cantù. For those who have never had the opportunity to feel the sense of wonder before the frescoed Christ in the semi-dome of the apse of S. Vincenzo in Galliano (St. Vincent in Galliano), the church loved by Aribert, one of the great archbishops of Milan. For those unfamiliar with the bell tower of S. Paolo (St. Paul), so simple and yet so adventurous, and the Romanesque apses of S. Teodoro (St. Theodore); the sixteenth-century frescoes of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin and all the churches where one can stop in the shadows and silence. And for those who have never seen the sacred buildings and monasteries where nuns, retired from the world, prayed for everyone over the centuries.
At one time the walls surrounded the village, except for the hill of Galliano: mighty walls, with guard towers, the Ferraia Gate, and the other gates the traces of which have been lost. At the centre of the village was the “platea magna”, the square where nowadays the puppet of the Giubiana, a woman believed to be a traitor of the Commune of Cantù at the time of Frederick Barbarossa, is burned. Today the square is a meeting place, from which one can set off to see rich mansions, houses worn by time, and exhibition buildings that preserve precious furniture and lace full of lightness and grace.
And then, outside the town walls, the Shrine of the “Madonna Bella” with its frescoes and the miracle of long ago; and, finally, the modern town, testified, for example, by the beautiful Schools in Via Andina, which are so white, so bright, so linear and rational, that they appear almost suddenly when one turns into the middle of the long “Viale della Madonna” boulevard.
Cantù’s treasures are not easy to discover. In some point of the town, in some quiet alley, in some remote or simply ignored corner, are hidden lancet windows, a small museum of sacred art, an ancient pharmacy, a Madonna and Child on an old wall. They are there and waiting.
The remodelling of our knowledge of the town of Cantù starts by following two different urban paths. The first is based on the sacred-devotional theme, which includes the historic and artistic, of the ancient veneration for the Madonna del latte (Breastfeeding Madonna or Our Lady of the Milk); and the second dedicated to recognizing the value of an important structure which has now almost entirely disappeared: the medieval town walls.
Other city walks will follow soon, though still linked to the same common thread, that is constant attention towards solidarity and accessibility, as we are convinced that beauty, even beauty of places, must definitely be open to all. By following these proposed itineraries the visitor will be able to discover that places of the past and places of the present – in Cantù, just as anywhere else in the world – constitute a “network” with solid cultural foundations, and the artistic heritage which they preserve or represent springs from events which have left a deep mark in local and national history.
The description of the paths is obviously meant for travellers on foot. In fact, walking and taking things slowly is the dimension that, better than any other, can help us grasp the historical depth of the itinerary and appreciate without haste the beauty – sometimes evident, sometimes unassuming and hidden – of the places and monuments described. We have not in any way presumed we could provide full detailed information about them; rather, our aim has been to try and bring those places and monuments back to life within the historical, geographical, social and cultural background which led to their origin and subsequent transformations. We have tried, too, to cast light on the image of Cantù as it used to be: to describe and render to the imagination even those buildings which time has caused to disappear. Only in this way, we think, the special places of this town will be able to keep the ties with their history alive, in the hope that in the future the respect they deserve and have won for themselves will continue to be recognized.
Intervention carried out within the scope of the ID 115 “Open monuments, for a city for everyone” project – Italian Ministry Of Labour and Social Policies resources – Lombardy Regional Council Decree 13943/2018