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Descending the steps that lead to the crypt allows you to meet those who, living the fullness of Christian life perfectly, have risen as close as possible to God: the Saints. Here the patrons and protectors rest, figures whose example becomes a valid model on which to shape our existence with the certainty that

The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received.

(Lumen Gentium n. 40).

It is a call to holiness which touches each of us and to which we can therefore respond, sustained by divine grace, with sincerity of heart, conforming ourselves ever more to our Master and Lord, allowing Him to reach in ourselves the maximum possible height.

In St. Homobonus, Patron of the Diocese and of the Church of Cremona, who lived during the twelfth century, we have an extraordinary example: layman, merchant of fabrics, he embraces the state of life of voluntary penance devoting himself to prayer, to a devotion to the Cross and to works of charity, housing and helping the poor; a man of peace and conciliator of the turbulent vicissitudes of communal life.

In St. Homobonus, Patron of the Diocese and of the Church of Cremona, who lived during the twelfth century, we have an extraordinary example: layman, merchant of fabrics, he embraces the state of life of voluntary penance devoting himself to prayer, to a devotion to the Cross and to works of charity, housing and helping the poor; a man of peace and conciliator of the turbulent vicissitudes of communal life.

St. Himerius distributes alms (Giovanni Antonio Amadeo) Presbytery |entrance on the right

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One cannot fail to mention two other saints, secondary patrons of the diocese: Himerius and Antonio Maria Zaccaria.

St. Himerius, according to ancient sources, was a hermit from Calabria; once settled in Umbria, he was elected bishop of the city of Amelia, near Terni. In the year 965 the bishop Liutprando managed to have the relics of the saint transported to Cremona, where his following, initially fervent, was later weakened by the growing devotion to St. Homobonus.

Antonio Maria Zaccaria , born in Cremona in 1502, after studying medicine in Pavia, returned to his native city where he devoted himself to an intense spiritual life until his priestly ordination in 1528. Two years later, in Milan, he founded the Congregation of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, aka Barnabites and, subsequently, the institute of the Angelic Sisters and a society for married couples. His whole activity is modeled on the apostolic vitality of St. Paul, love for the crucified Christ and the Eucharist, whose worship and devotion he promoted in every way. He died consumed by fatigue at the age of 37 on July 5, 1539 and was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1897.

These are men in whose lives we really see the fruits of God’s love because “God is love and he who remains in love, remains in God and God in him”(1 Jn 4:16).

Cremona, in a climate that between the fifteenth and the sixteenth century sees in the sculpture a progressive emergence of a classicist taste due largely to the presence of Gian Cristoforo Romano – who influenced a great number of sculptors formed at the Scuola di Piatti ed Amadeo – sees arrival of the Arches of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, previously in St. Thomas and subsequently set up in the crypt of the Cathedral.

Several projects and artists leave an imprint in the history of this work, initially entrusted to the famous Benedetto Briosco – a sculptor already widely and authoritatively active at the Certosa di Pavia – who, in 1506, took on the task of creating six paintings in relief, six statues (four of angels and two of the Saints Marcellino and Pietro), parts of the cornice and of the tomb. Two years later, when he accepts a new commission at the Certosa, he will deliver five of the six paintings, the statues of the Saints and the tomb which is still preserved today in the assemblage that can currently be admired in the crypt.

There are other artists who are asked to complete the sarcophagus, including – we are in 1525 – Gian Giacomo Della Porta, who, later with Paolo Sacca, draws up a colossal project that was never actually realized, thus leaving as his only handiwork a panel of the Baptism of the family of the jailer Artemio. Still others work devote themselves to the work until the dismantling in 1585, of the installation set up in San Tommaso by Lorenzo Trotti to subsequently transport the pieces to the Duomo where, in 1609, Matteo Galletti creates the tomb in the form that we see it still today using the pieces made by Briosco, some new decorations and a panel with the Ecce Homo of Amadeo from the Tomb of Sant’Arealdo.

In the Tomb of Sts. Marcellino and Peter one may truly admire the new taste excellently expressed by Briosco, which becomes the standard bearer of classicism in Lombardy: in its frames we see “a sweeter sculpture, with small figures immersed in quasi-atmospheric scenarios, characters with sleek physiognomies, a new ornamental repertoire, the renunciation of the original expressionism that had characterized it until then“; it almost seems “to feel something of what Gian Cristoforo Romano and even Leonardo had attested to“.

A fragment of a broader mosaic floor covering probably dating back to the beginning of the 12th century, is the mosaic that can be seen behind the urn of St. Homobonus, apparently recalling the nave of a previous large crypt in oratory.

In the mosaic, among the various subjects we see a monstrous figure with scorpion wings and a tail, a naked young man and a allusion, traceable to the early Christian era, of two peacocks that symmetrically face the chalice.

Technically one can see the typical black and white weave patterns that are found in Roman mosaic floors, while the colored parts alternate light marble, red terracotta and yellowish stones.

Always circa the time of the construction of the cathedral or even earlier – extensive discussions have taken place regarding hypothetical dates – are the mosaics preserved in the Camposanto dei Canonici (Cemetery of the Canons): a mosaic floor that preserves in its surviving fragments important finds that – given its similar production technique, can place it in relation to – also chronologically – those of the crypt.