Novara Cathedral was built over the old Romanesque Cathedral, demolished at the wish of the populace to make way for the imposing Neoclassical church designed by Antonelli in 1831.
Antonelli’s project was not merely to build a new cathedral, but also to integrate it harmoniously into Novara’s townscape. Accordingly he designed the wide colonnaded porch to face the square and renovated the four-sided portico, so that the church blends into the adjacent buildings.
The interior is divided into three naves separated by stucco columns faced with ochre yellow marezzo scagliola (imitation marble) with Corinthian capitals. The central nave is covered by a barrel vault, while the side naves have calotte ceilings in each span. At the apse end is a triumphal arch decorated with winged victories, while in the centre is a round stained glass window depicting the Assumption (1969).
The altar designed by Antonelli is outstanding among the many fine pieces in the church. The central part has a tempietto comprising eight Corinthian columns in green Varallo marble, and the upper part an allegorical statue of Religion flanked by Moses and St Peter.
The Baptistery opposite the Cathedral is the oldest building in Novara, going back to the 5th century. It was spared during Antonelli’s reconstruction of the square, but today cannot be seen to advantage from the outside.
The cycle of paintings of the Apocalypse of St John is celebrated, and is dominated by eight pictures representing the seven blasts of the trumpet announcing the catastrophic plagues to be unleashed on humanity. Especially notable is the painting depicting the episode of the waters turned into wormwood.