When Pallanza blocked the waterway to Milan

The document of November 2014

One of the fundamental measures that made the construction of the Duomo possible was the Letter Patent, or Ducal privilege, issued by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, “comte de Vertus”, on October 24, 1387. The precious document, beautifully written and now conserved in the archive of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo (Privileges Section), orders the Capitano of Lake Maggiore, the Vicario of Locarno, the Podestà of Intra and Pallanza and other “officials” to take steps to ensure that the marbles are quarried by the Fabbrica itself, without paying any money.

More than a century later, a document (Capo XVIII bis, Appalti e Forniture, cart.173, conduct of the marbles to the Lake) referred to one of the towns mentioned, Pallanza. Like all the documents conserved in the Historical Archive of the Veneranda Fabbrica, it is stored in a “sleeve” with a summary of its contents: it is a sentence, dated May 11, 1542, complete with seal, written in beautiful Latin by the “Maestrato” (Magistrate) of Milan and refers to a dispute between the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo and the Fabbrica of the church of San Celso in Milan (with shared interests related to the transport of goods on the waterways) on one side, and the Community, “and other authorities of Pal[l]anza” on the other.

It orders an inspection to be performed on a lock created by the Community of Pallanza on the river Toce, because of which “impedita remanet navigatio”, in order to decide which remedies to take.

Cristoforo Lombardo, a famous architect and sculptor, who at the time held the prestigious position of ‘architect of the Fabbrica’, and was the acknowledged author of both the portal of the northern chevet and several statues in the Duomo, was instructed to carry out the inspection.

As indicated in the document summary, the survey was necessary “so that he can examine the aforesaid lock and other impediments, and when he understands that the work, undertaken on the part of the aforesaid Community of Pallanza to protect its assets, may be modified in such a way as to make it possible to navigate the River as we have always done”.

As far as we know, after this sentence, transport of the marble to the city of Milan and the cathedral along the waterways was reinstated, once again “sine solutione”, i.e. without impediment, as envisaged in the Ducal Decree of 1387.



Recommended bibliography:
Il Duomo di Milano.  Dizionario storico-artistico e religioso, Milan 1986, ad vocem Candoglia
Naviglio & Duomo, edited by Associazione Amici dei Navigli, Milan 1986
C.Ferrari da Passano, Le sorgenti del Duomo.Le cave di Candoglia, Milan 2001