How the Colossus of San Carlo gave birth to the Statue of Liberty?
I still remember the last day of school: I was almost happy not to see him every day, but now if I think about it a little I miss it… I attended the De Filippi highschool and every morning, he was there staring at me, yes, the famous San Carlone!
It will certainly be written in small print and it will not be noticed but at the foot of the famous New York Statue of Liberty there is a plaque that testifies that it was built on the basis of our San Carlone… despite Lady Liberty has stolen the supremacy of the tallest statue of the world, how about poking out of Carlo’s ear and enjoying a breathtaking view?
We are in Arona, home of Piedmont Delights, one of the first tourist resorts on Lake Maggiore, located in Piedmont, 40 km far from Novara, yes, another gem of our North Piedmont that I will take you to discover today!
Aronesi don’t you feel observed? If you raise your eyes to the sky, on sunny days, you could see it, with its 35 meters high it stands out among the ancient trees that surround it. Along the road that connects Arona with Dagnente, we reach the Sacro Monte, so called because Carlo’s cousin, Federico Borromeo, together with his faithful, wanted to pay homage to this saint by building 15 chapels in addition to the statue and the church. Between wars, famines and pestilences, unfortunately today only 3 chapels can be observed in the architectural structure.
On 2 October 1538, fortress of Arona, where I will later take you to relax in the midst of greenery, lit up with a strange night light that lasted until sunset the next day. That night, Gilberto II and Margherita Medici of Marignano, Lords of Arona, gave birth to Carlo, who was already directed to an ecclesiastical career at the age of seven. At the age of 12, he was appointed abbot of the abbey – once annexed to the current Church of the Martyrs – and, at the age of just 20, Carlo became a Doctor of Canon Law at the University of Pavia.
Our graduate decided to follow his uncle to Rome, where he was appointed Vatican Secretary of State and Cardinal. 5 years later, he returned to Milan, where he became Archbishop and took care of the people, building hospitals and hospices. Despite numerous pastoral visits, Carlo always returned to Milan, where he received admiration but unfortunately also hatred among the faithful.
On the night of November 3, 1584, his journey ended and 25 years later Cardinal Federico Borromeo, his cousin, declared him a saint. In honor of him, they built the San Carlone, so affectionately called by the people from Arona.
If we lift his robe underneath we find a hollow statue, supported by a core of iron, brick and stone, while on the outside Carlo wears a fine hammer-beaten copper tunic sewn with nails and tie rods. Siro Zanella and Bernardo Falconi, the sculptors, wanted to represent Carlo with his right hand as a sign of blessing on Arona and a book in the other hand.
Turning around it, we can climb through its back through steep spiral stairs, reaching the eyes, nose and ears from where we can admire the wonderful surrounding panorama.
A few meters as the crow flies from the statue, is the Rocca, the birthplace of Carlo, a defensive building designed by the Lombards which later became a refuge for the bishops. From the Della Torre family it then passed into the hands of the Visconti but unfortunately Napoleon in 1800 destroyed some buildings occupied by the Austrians and only a few remains of the Rocca can be visited today. The towers and fortifications that remain today are evidence of an ancient history.
If you enter the paths you can take a dip in the past, close your eyes and imagine that the fortified enclosures with the towers of which the bases are visible today, the keep (or Rocchetta), the Romanesque oratory of S. Ambrogio (sec. XI), the room of weapons and the place where Carlo was born in 1538 have become an open-air museum, unique places that, thanks to the municipal administration and local businesses, are accessible to citizens… Carlo will certainly be happy for this!
The current Borromeo family did not want to forget the significance of this place so in 1970 they designated the park as a public space and at the beginning of the 2000s it entered the FAI’s “Places of the Heart”.
In 2011 it was returned to Arona and tourists and today it is a space for events and weddings and one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the area from which to admire the Lombard coast of Lake Maggiore.
How about a snack break to recover energy after this walk? The Parco della Rocca offers a large green lawn and a playground for children and even if we don’t know if Carlo was greedy for cheese or not, our producer Guffanti has dedicated this San Carlone Erborinato Cream to him, which is perfect spread on croutons of bread or even eaten by the spoonfuls!
– Until next time, With love!