Inside the Nave
As the visitor enters the church through the two lateral entrances or through the monumental portal that is usually open only for solemn ceremonies, he can admire the beautiful dimensions of the inside (the nave is 28 m high and 68,5 m long, while together with the aisles it is 31,30 m wide) and notice the different heights between the nave and the presbytery area (the building of the so called "piazzetta senatoria", an area assigned to the nobility of the time, magistrates and vestrymen, was suggested by Carlo Borromeo during his pastoral visit in 1575).
The actual flooring was made according to the project of the architect Luigi Voghera in 1827 and it replaced the old flooring rich in tombstones sculpted with the portraits of many of those clergymen or laymen who had been the benefactors of the cathedral for centuries.
If we look at the elevation of the nave the element that surely catches the eye first, and that is a characteristic of this part of the church marked at the summit of each bay by the women gallery and the clerestory, is the complex fresco decoration above the arches, from the counter-facade to the apse and presbytery area. This cycle was carried out in two different periods, even if chronologically very near, and it masterly illustrates some of the main evolution steps of the passage from first to second Renaissance typical of the Cremonese painting and of the Po Valley in general.
The entire cycle of frescoes goes from 1505, with the Redeemer and Saints of the apse's bowl-shaped vault by B. Boccaccino, to 1521, with the magnificent Crucifixion of the counter-facade made by "il Pordenone" (see pic), and for its complexity this intervention called for a considerable expenditure sustained mostly by the Board of Trustees, the lay government board of the Cathedral, showing a noteworthy cultural updating in the choice of painters. At this point the work started and for the apse decoration a painter with a good experience the likes of Boccaccio Boccaccino was chosen and in 1507 he made, in the triangle above the arch of the presbytery, the beautiful scene of the Annunciation that moreover testifies how in that period the realization of the cycle with stories of the Virgin and Jesus, where this scene will be repeated again, had not been prepared yet.
More or less in the same period an interesting votive fresco of 1370, located at the left of the apse cap and representing Madonna with a devotee (the Canon Benedetto Fodri) was heavily revised, the same fresco that the restoration works of 1997 have recovered highlighting in the double picture of the devotee these two phases.
After his journey to Rome, in 1514 Boccaccino is again untrusted with the new important work that winds like a ribbon above the imposts of the arches of the nave beginning from the first bay on the left, entering the church, representing a total of 25 episodes thus divided: 6 dedicated to the life of Mary (the angel announces to Joachim the maternity of Ann, the meeting of Joachim with Ann at the Golden Door, Birth of the Virgin, Marriage of Mary and Joseph, Annunciation, Visitation), 7 episodes dedicated to the life of Infant Jesus (Birth of Jesus, Circumcision, Adoration of the Magi, Presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the Slaughter of the Innocents, Jesus with the doctors of the Temple) and 12 episodes dedicated to the Passion of Jesus (the Last Supper, the Washing of the feet, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, capture of Jesus, Jesus before Kaifa, Jesus before Pilate, the Flagellation, the Crown of Thorns, Ecce Homo, Jesus bearing the cross, the fall under the cross, Jesus is nailed to the cross), up to the conclusion with the great: scene of the Crucifixion, on the counter-facade, symmetrically framed on the right by the Sorrow, again by "il Pordenone", and by the Resurrection on the left, by Bernardino Gatti.
After Boccaccino, who painted the first 8 scenes between 1514 and 1515 and the 13th scene in 1518, other four artists followed one another: Gianfrancesco Bembo (for the 9th and the 10th scenes) and Altobello Melone (for the 11th and the 12th scene and for the 14th to the 18th scene), two important exponents of the so-called experimental or eccentric school of the Lombard painting of that period, to pass in 1519 to Girolamo Romanino from Brescia (from the 19th to the 22nd scene) who should have accomplished all the right side, but was clamorously substituted in 1520 by the more "modern" Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis known as "il Pordenone".
Thanks to this painter we can admire the last three lateral scenes presenting, besides their more extensive work, as each scene now takes up the entire bay, a total change of register compared to the elegant and refined compositions of Boccaccino. The artist in fact by adding to the mighty Michelangelesque volumes a strong sense of the color and affected expressionism, breaks up the compositive surface charging the scenes with a strong dramatic power, the same drama coming out from the conclusive Crucifixion of the counter-facade. The entire cycle has undergone a complex restoration work, beginning from the apse area to the entire cycle of the nave, ended in 1999.
Coming back to the presbytery we may observe the two pulpits realized between 1814 and 1817 by Luigi Voghera, who re-employed here four precious relief panels made by GiovanAntonio Amadeo in 1483 and belonging to the Area Meli of the homonymous Chapel in the Church of S. Lorenzo, a precious purchase of the Board of the Trustees in the 19th century.