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Brescia contains a hidden treasure trove, which after a long period of restoration has become today's City Museum...

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History and culture

History and culture

Brescia's origins can be traced to the Bronze Age, but the city's importance began latter when it was the capital of the Cenomani Gauls of Brixia. The Cenomani were defeated and absorbed by the Romans in 187 BC, but it was only in 49 BC, under Julius Ceaser, that Brescia obtained full Roman citizenship. This was followed by a long period of peace and splendor, in which Brescia became of the major centers of Northern Italy. The city grew thanks to the strength of its economy based on agriculture, trade, marble quarries and iron mines.
With the disintegration of the Roman Empire in 476, Brescia suffered the scourge of barbarian invasions: Eruli, Ostrogoths and Byzantines. Then Alboin's Lombards arrived from present-day Hungary. For two centuries, the city was the site of one of the most important Lombard duchies. Important civil and religious centers were constructed, such as the monastic complex of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia. This was followed by the Frankish domination of Charlemagne, which lasted until 888. Following the disintegration of Charlemagne's empire, the city entered a dark period that left few traces.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, we see the age of the Communes, in which Brescia was often engaged in wars with nearby cities or bloodied by civil war. The communes interrupted fighting each other only to unite against a common enemy: the Lombard League was formed and defeated Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa when he descended into Italy in 1176. These centuries were a period of great building activity: a new circle of wall was built and the Duomo Vecchio and Broletto date from this period. The 14th and 15th centuries were the Age of the Signories: the city came under the domination of powerful noble families such as the Angioini, Visconti and Malatesta. In 1426, Brescia became a possession of the Republic of Venice, and remained such until 1796. Under Venice's liberal rule, the city experienced a period of splendor and economic development: This is the period in which Piazza della Loggia, and many churches and noble palazzi were built, and the construction of the new fortified walls that made the city impregnable.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the city began to feel the effects of Venice's political decline. Brescia was an area of passage for foreign troops who sacked and pillaged; the city felt unprotected by Venice. In 1797, Brescia rebelled against Venice and was included by Napoleon in the Cisalpine Republic, but, with the collapse of the Napoleonic empire (1815), Austria incorporated Brescia into its own territory. Austrian domination lasted until 1859: in fact, in that period, the new concepts of liberty and self-determination of peoples spread by the French revolution were in full ferment and Brescia was one of the centers with the most active revolutionary movements. In 1849, the Brescian revolutionaries rebelled and resisted their Austrian masters for ten dramatic days. This was the episode that earned the city the nickname, “Lioness of Italy”. Austrian domination ended with the Wars of Independence. Finally, in 1859, Brescia was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and, from that day on, the city's history has been tied to that of united Italy.

Photos courtesy of: Provincia di Brescia – Assessorato Turismo, Comune di Brescia – Servizio Turismo

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