The Chapel of Madonna del Popolo (Our Lady of the People) and the altars of the north transept and of the aisle.
The wide chapel at the right side of the presbytery, today called Chapel of Madonna del Popolo, but previously known as Chapel of the Relics and once entitled to St. John the Baptist, has undergone at least two important structural changes: a manieristic change, carried out in 1555 by Francesco Dattaro with stucco works by Gianbattista Cambi know as "il Bombarda", and a seventeenth-century change made after 1633 by Carlo and Giovan Battista Natali, while Giovan Battista Zaist (1750) made the almost theatrical scenographic structure hosting in the niche the Statue of the Assumption by Giuseppe Chiari (1687-1750).
The paintings of this chapel are very rich and important. They are symmetrically disposed according to a regular pattern foreseeing a principal work in the center surmounted by a smaller painting, with two little tablets on either side and coming from a split up polyptych by G.F.Bembo (beginnings of the 16th century). According to this pattern we can admire in the first section the Resurrection of Christ by G.B. Trotti known as "il Malosso" and St. John the Baptist in the desert by Bernardino Campi, with St. lmerius and St.Omobonus at his sides, to pass on to the Baptism of Jesus by Giulio Campi, the same author of the Preaching of the Baptist with St. Peter and St. Paul; on the other side we find the Decollation and the Birth of St. John the Baptist by Bernardino Campi, with St. Peter the exorcist and St. Marcellino and finally the Descent of the Holy Ghost by "il Malosso" and the Banguet of Herod by Bernardino Campi, with St. Rocco and the Blessed Alberto da Villa d'Ogna.
Entering further the north wing of the transept, even if the considerable height only allows the viewing from a distance, it is interesting to observe the late gothic cycle of the vaults of the aisles, extending also to the south wing in the 37 painted ribs. The cycle, dedicated to the Stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, has been recently restored, and the works, besides making the date 1430 visible, as a likely indication of the ending date of the works, has given a full legibility to this Old Testament wide iconographic apparatus, for whom the close link with the miniaturists working at the Visconti Court has been confirmed.
There is another "treasure" of the Cathedral of Cremona that brings us back to Milan: it is the Grande Croce (Big Cross), located right in the first bay of the north transept, and exhibited since 1994 in a crystal case that protects and preserves it. This is a silver astylar cross and surely a masterpiece not only of the Cathedral Treasury, but of the fifteenth-century lombard goldsmith's art, as it was made in 1478 by two goldsmiths: the milanese Ambrogio Pozzi and the cremonese Agostino Sacchi. These two names together with the date of execution are engraved with niello on the base of the pedestal of the cross itself laying on a complex base added in 1775 and made by Giuseppe Berselli on a drawing of Giovanni Manfredini.
We may now pass to the altars of the north transept that give a good exemplification of the Cremonese painting of the 16th century, beginning from the first altar on the right dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel and that was under the patronage of the Ala Family who in 1566 commissioned Giulio Campi, the older of the three brothers of this famous family of painters, the beautiful altarpiece still located at the same place and framed by a contemporary terracotta ancon.
Antonio Campi, the youngest brother of Giulio, is the author of the altarpiece of the near altar dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows made in 1566, as execution of a testamentary bequest for the altar of St. Anthony from Padua, having once had a different location as the presence of the Saint in this Pietà seems to suggest.
On the third altar there is finally a beautiful tablet of the beginning of the 16th century presenting Our Lady with Child among the Saints Girolamo, Nicola from Tolentino and Ann, a work that according to recent studies passed from the precedent author Bernardino Ricca to Francesco Casella.
Before moving to the opposite side altars, we may observe four marble panels on the counterfagade (Jesus at the Column, Apparition to Magdalene, St Francis receiving the stigmata, St Girolamo) made by G.Antonio Amadeo in 1448, once part of the Arca di San Arealdo (Sarcophagus of St Arealdo).
In this side of the transept the altars are only two, because in the last section we find the entrance to the Treasury of the Cathedral. In the first bay we find the altar dedicated to St. Rocco, present in the Cathedral at the end of the 16th century and adorned with the statue of the Saint, while the complex structural work incorporating it today was made in the middle of the 16th century with the location of the six stories of St. Rocco at its sides, dated between 1643 and 1645, and made by Luigi Miradori known as "Il Genovesino" who is also the author of the three paintings located above (St. Rocco visits the plague-victims, Procession of St. Rocco, St. Rocco and the animals).
In the following bay we find today the Chapel of the Relics or of the Sacred Thorn, added at the end of the 18th century according to the project of Giovanni Manfredini, having the purpose of gathering together in the same place the countless series of relics come to the church during the centuries and among them, at the center of this place, surely the most precious outstands: the Sacred Thorn, given by the only Cremonese Pope, Gregorius the 14th, in 1591. The physiognomy of this important personality, bishop of the town under the secular name Nicolò Sfondrati, may be discovered in the big altarpiece of 1593 by Luca Cattapane, adorning the first altar we meet entering the left aisle and representing Our Lady among the Saints Antonio Abate and Paul the Hermit with Pope Gregorius the 16th knelt down.
Almost all the altars of the two aisles present a series of big marble ancons of solemn planning, the outcome of a more general planning of renewal and re-interpretation of the Cinquecento ancons completed in the 16th century by Carlo Natali and his son Giovan Battista, who were the architects of the Board of Trustees of the Cathedral uninterruptedly from 1630 to 1680, while Giacomo Bertesi, the most important name of the Cremonese wood sculpture between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, was the author of the first two chapels of the left aisle dedicated respectively to St. Joseph and to the Blessed Virgin of the Graces. The corporation of "Legnamari e muratori" (carpenters and masons) actually commissioned him, between 1668 and 1669, the magnificent altarpiece bas-relief sculpted representing an agreeable Sacred Family and above it, in a bold foreshortening, the Eternal Father, while the putti located below graciously show the typical tools of the two client corporations. The realization of the near chapel instead dates back to 1683 and it is built all around the painting on copper by A. Massarotti, representing Our Lady with Child; the bas-relief frontal of the altar made of white stucco imitating the marble, a work of Giacomo Bertesi, goes well with this complex work recalling the Bernini style.