PARMA – Duomo


A basilica probably existed on this site as early as the sixth century, but it was later abandoned. Another church had been consecrated in the rear part of the preceding one in the 9th century by the count-bishop Guibodo. The construction was begun in 1059 by bishop Cadalo, later antipope with the name of Honorius II, and was consecrated by Paschal II in 1106.

The new church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1117 and had to be restored. Of the original building, some remains can be seen in the presbytery, the transept, the choir and the apses, and in some sculpture fragments. The wide façade was completed in 1178: it has three loggia floors and three portals, whose doors were sculpted by Luchino Bianchino in 1494. Between the central and the right doors is the tomb of the mathematician Biagio Pelacani, who died in 1416. The Gothic belfry was added later, in 1284-1294: a twin construction on the left side had been conceived, but it was never begun. Beside the Cathedral lies the octagonal Baptistry of Parma.

The wide facade (dated 1178) features three loggia floors and three portals, whose doors were sculpted by Luchino Bianchino in 1494. There are four reliefs by Benedetto Antelami, from 1178. Two great marble lions support the arch-vault columns, carved in 1281 by Giambono da Bissone. Between the central and the right doors is the tomb of the mathematician Biagio Pelacani, who died in 1416.

The interior has a Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles divided by pillars. The presbytery and the transept are elevated, to allow for an underlying crypt. Along the nave, in the lunettes above the spans, are monochrome frescoes of Old Testament stories, as well as event of the Passion. This culminates in the apse cupola, frescoed with Christ, Mary, Saints, and Angels in Glory (1538-1544) by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli. In the right transept is the Deposition by Benedetto Antelami (1178). Particularly noteworthy are the capitals, also in the exterior: many of them are characterized by rich decorations with leaves, mythological figures, scenes of war, as well as Biblical and Gospel scenes. The paintings, as revealed by a capital stripped of the 16th century gold leaf, were originally polychrome.

The most famous work of art in Parma Cathedral is the Assumption by Correggio in the central cupola. Painted in 1534, the fresco features the Virgin Mary ascending through a sea of limbs, faces and swirling drapery.


The oldest news relating to the organs of the Cathedral of Parma date from the first half of the fifteenth century when Andrea da Rimini and his son Pellegrino built a new organ commissioned by the bishop of Parma Domenico in Imola. A century later, in the history of the organs of the Cathedral, features the name of one of the most illustrious families of Italian organbuilders, “the Antegnati” who between 1556 and 1560 built a great organ for the cathedral, placing it first in the Chapel of St. Paul (then Chapel of the People) and then, after a few months, moved it to the main nave. The magnificent organ of Antegnati lasted a few centuries, then yielded to time and wear-and-tear; so at the end of the eighteenth century it was decided to build a new organ. At the sitting of the Fabbriceria of September 9th, 1786, Can. Count Scutellari suggested the name of Giuseppe Serassi. In May of the year 1787, Serassi began mounting the instrument in the Cathedral, and on August 15 of that year, on the feast of the Assumption the organ was complete and inaugurated by Maestro Don Antonio Toscani, to the great satisfaction of all present.

Around 1940 the organ was disassembled and partially stored in the church: case, labial pipes and bellows.

The restoration work started with the reassembly of the beautiful case followed by the reconstruction of the organ itself that required a special design effort considering the size of the instrument in relation to the space available, the narrowness of which is made more critical by the presence of tie rods that support the choir and case, as well as by the passage of access to the same choir.

The missing windchests were rebuilt of solid walnut in the original spring-chest style. They are located one behind the other, and the “eco” is split in two sections: bass and treble.

Five wedge bellows, with additional hand-pumping apparatus, are located in a separate room.

Technical features

Andrea and Giuseppe Serassi 1787

Located in the choir area at the left side of the Cathedral, the instrument consists of two keyboards of 59 keys (C-1 – D5) with short octave: Great Organ on the upper keyboard and Eco organ on the lower keyboard, Pedalboard of 17 keys (C-1 – G # 1) with short octave

Stops operated by stoplevers, arranged in two columns, with mechanical ‘free combination’ for the Great, the Eco with drawknobs laid out in a single column on the left side of the console.

Wind pressure: 48 mm.
Diapason: LA 449 Hz a 17°C
Temperament: Tartini – Vallotti

Upper Manual – First Organ
  1. Principale Bassi 16′(32′)
  2. Principale Soprani 16′
  3. Principale I Bassi
  4. Principale I Soprani
  5. Principale II Bassi
  6. Principale II Soprani
  7. Ottava Bassi
  8. Ottava Soprani
  9. XII
  10. XV
  11. XIX
  12. XXII
  17. XXXVI-XL
  18. Cornetto I Soprani
  19. Cornetto II Soprani
  20. Fagotto Bassi
  21. Trombe Soprani
  22. Viola Bassi
  23. Flutta Soprani
  24. Flauto in VIII Bassi
  25. Flauto in VIII Soprani
  26. Flauto in XII
  27. Voce Umana Soprani
  28. Sesquialtera 2 file
  29. Contrabassi e Ottave (24′-12′)
  30. Timballi
Lower Manual –  Eco Organ
  1. Principale Bassi
  2. Principale Soprani
  3. Ottava
  4. XV
  5. XIX
  6. XXII
  7. XXVI
  8. XXIX
  9. Sesquialtera
  10. Flauto in VIII Soprani
  11. Cornetto Soprani
  12. Violoncello Bassi
  13. Violoncello Soprani

‘Free Combination’ in the ‘Lombarda’ style
Manual Coupler
Octave Coupler (Terza Mano)
Drum (Tamburo)


Pubblication: “L’organo della Cattedrale di Parma” by Mauro Pellegrini, with a script by Oscar Mischiati edited by “Fondazione Cassa d Risparmio di Parma”. Silva Ed. 2001