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Named 'pleasant place' (Placentia) by the Romans, Piacenza soon proved itself to be an important strategic location as well. Just short of the regional border with Lombardy, the contemporary city is perfect day-trip fodder(!). Its picturesque centre reveals a beautiful Gothic town hall and a couple of august churches.

Piacenza lies on the south bank of the Po River just below the mouth of the Trebbia, southeast of Milan. It was founded as the Roman colony of Placentia in 218 BC. After being besieged unsuccessfully by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 207 BC and sacked by the Gauls in 200, it was restored and reinforced. In 187 BC it became the terminus of the Via Aemilia, the great arterial road to Ariminum (Rimini), and was later the focus of other major Roman roads. After the barbarian invasions, Piacenza was governed by its bishops from 997 to 1035. It became a free commune in the 12th century and a leading member of the Lombard League of towns in opposition to the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Despite political vicissitudes, it prospered from its control of river and road traffic. A long period of struggle between the Visconti and Sforza families, alternating with papal and French rule, was ended in 1545 by the creation by Pope Paul III of the hereditary duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his son Pier Luigi Farnese.

Church and convent of San Giovanni in Canale

The church and the convent of San Giovanni in Canale was built around 1200 by Father Bonviso Piacenza of the order of the Dominican Dominicans. He is expressly sent to Piacenza by the founder of the Order to organize a community of which he became the first Prior in 1227.

The Church and convent are built in an area crossed by canals coming from the Trebbia torrent, in the south-west district of the city, between the canal of Beverora and the Magione of the Templars, then ceded to the Dominicans following the suppression of the order.

Over the centuries, the monastery acquired fame and influence as it was also the seat of the office of the Court of the Inquisition. At the same time, the transformation of the original church is associated with the expansion of the monastic system.

From the 14th century, chapels on the north side of the outer area and south on the thickness of the wall were added. In them are buried noble families among which the Scotti family stands out.

Among the sculptural artifacts in the Church of San Giovanni in Canale, Piacenza, in addition to the numerous tombstones, are marble sepulchres belonging to noble families who were entrusted with the patronage of the relative chapels. The oldest burial ground belongs to the Scotti family and dates back to the early 14th century.

The sarcophagus, in the breccia(1) of Verona, with a pitched roof, has reliefs on the front, on the sides, on the covering slab and the acroteria, includes a Madonna with Child and Saints is that of Alberto Scotti(2). The monument is in the right aisle, but was originally in the Scotti Anguissola chapel (last of the left aisle).

Another monument attributable to the fourteenth century is the Arcelli sepulcher on the right in the retroface; on the left is the Scotti Gonzaga tomb from the 16th century from the Scotti Anguissola chapel.

In the chapel of San Caterina (Scotti di Sarmato and Montalo) there is the funeral monument of Orazio Scotti from the seventeenth century, in which besides the complex architectural organization we can appreciate the two lateral putti and the bust of Scotti attributed to Alessandro Algardi.

One of the frescoes at the bottom of the nave belong to the fifteenth century depicts "Antonio Scotti danti to Beato Marcolino da Forlì" by Gherardo Garatoli.

In the church, there is the marble slab of the sepulchre in which Count Cristoforo Scotti was buried.  Of late fifteenth-century style, and square in shape, it encloses between branches of acanthus a helmet with a swan-shaped crest, which stands out on the coat of arms of the two Scotti and Strozzi families and on the dedicatory inscription.

Palazzo Douglas Scotti Viviani Viviani - Piacenza (3)

Palazzo Douglas Scotti crest courtyard  

The Palazzo, located on Via G. Taverna, houses The Morigi College, which was established by Royal Decree on 8 May 1868 by testamentary will of prof. Dr. Giacomo Morigi of September 1, 1855 "for the education and education of male youth". The Morigi College is recognized as a Public Assistance and Charitable Institution with a Royal Decree of 5 June 1858.

On January 18, 1869 the College began its activity centred on the boarding school and until 1933, with alternate events, also as the seat of internal schools.

Morigi College refers to it's building (in translation) as 'Duglas Palace'



Palazzo Scotti Da Vigoleno

Palazzo Scotti Da Vigoleno crest interior
The Palazzo Scotti Da Vigoleno is an eighteenth-century building that belonged to the Scotti da Vigoleno family, now the seat of the Prefecture. Worthy of note are the three-nave atrium, the grand staircase and the frescoes, depicting celebratory allegories of the Scotti family, which adorn the upper hall.

The Prefecture of Piacenza is located in the historic monumental building "Scotti di Vigoleno", which takes its name from one of the four powerful families who exercised the power of the city during the Middle Ages, and who called the district where the buildings of his property stood. The palace was built by the Marquis Filippo, who began work in 1717, to finish them a decade later. At the beginning of the 1700s in Piacenza the families of the most ancient nobility and those of the rich merchants of recent nobility competed for the supremacy of the sumptuousness and elegance of the dwellings. The Marquis Filippo entrusted the work to the architect Ignazio Cerri to have an adequate building erected for his illustrious family and to prepare a separate apartment for his eldest son Francesco, betrothed to Maria Lucrezia Pallavicino of Busseto and Zibello. Construction costs were very high. The house was inhabited by a large family, assisted by many servants.

The interior decoration was entrusted to Francesco Natali and Bartolomeo Rusca, the best artists working in Piacenza in Piacenza, who created a series of frescoes that stand out for their high quality and originality among the examples of the decorations of Piacenza from the 1700s and early 1800s. The eighteenth-century grace of the paintings reveal a typical plastic and theatrical taste of the late Baroque period.

Rusca, whose cultural referent was the decorative vein of the Genoese masters, was an artist endowed with a remarkable ability to assimilate and enrich his own culture, gaining considerable success among the most prominent families of Piacenza.

The sumptuous hall of honor of the Scotti di Vigoleno palace (so called Sala delle Armi for the depictions on the walls), an extraordinary complex, is characterized by the vault depicting the "Triumph of the Scotti family", which represents allegorical figures with lively and fresh colours.

On the death of the Marquis Gaetano, in 1876, none of the co-heirs wanted to take over the family palace, considered to be of high value but of no income, which, therefore, was sold for seventy thousand lire to the Provincial Administration of Piacenza. The Scotti family abandoned its residence and its members settled in various buildings in Piacenza.

The Provincial Administration decided to transfer its offices and those of the Prefecture, deciding that the offices of the Prefecture and of the Province would be housed in the west wing, using the large hall for administration meetings, while the remainder of the apartment the first floor would have been used for the offices of the Prefecture and for housing of the Prefect; in the north wing the Provveditorato alle Studi had to settle, on the ground floor the Questura and on the second floor other offices. Later, only the ground floor of the police headquarters remained and the prefect's quarters on the main floor, while the rest of the premises were used as offices for the Prefecture. In March 1997 the Police Headquarters transferred its offices to the new headquarters in Viale Malta.
In the days following April 25, 1945 the offices were looted by the fascists and then by the partisans, and a fire caused the loss of important historical and archival documentation.

1.  Breccia is a term most often used for clastic sedimentary rocks that are composed of large angular fragments (over two millimeters in diameter).
2.  Is this the Alberto Douglas Scotti, Lord of Piacenza, established the fortified military residence of Fombio in 1299?
3. So good they named it twice? 

For more on the Douglas Scotti families of Italy, see our Italy portal.



Sources for this article include:
  • Prof. Natalia Bianchini
  • Turismo Piacenza
  • Prefecture - Territorial Office of the Government of Piacenza

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    Last modified: Monday, 06 July 2020