The Basilica of San Giulio located on the small island of San Giulio in the center of Lake Orta. Although the island is part of the town of Orta San Giulio (born in 1928 from the merger of the towns of Orta Novarese and Island of San Giulio), the Basilica belongs to a parish in its own right (the parish of San Giacomo) which includes the island and a part of the west coast of the lake in the municipality of San Maurizio d'Opaglio.
The tradition, containing interesting historical references, wants this to be the hundredth and the last church founded by San Giulio, a native of the island of Egina in Greece, who with his brother Giuliano, dedicated the last years of his life to evangelization of Lake Orta. According to legend, in around 390 the saint began sailing to the island on his cloak and freed it from the dragon (symbolic image of the defeat of paganism) building a small church, dedicated to the twelve Apostles, in the place where formerly a temple is assumed to arise or a sacred pagan.
In the height of the middle ages, the strategic location made the island an important defensive site, first of a Lombard duke, then fitted with castle belonging to the King of Italy Berengario II. The castle finally came (or returned, if the attribution of its historic building to the Bishop of Novara honoured in the fifth century) in the grounds of the Bishop of Novara. The fortunes of war and military requirements affected the development of the sacred is the probable damages suffered during the siege, and the transformation of some of its appliances. The description of the ancient octagonal tower of the castle, demolished in 1841 to make way for the seminary, has recently led some historians to speculate that it could be originally the baptistery of the church on the island.
The archaeological excavations carried out inside the building showed traces of a primitive church (century V - VI century) in the form of simple, small chapel with a single apse, oriented north. About a century later a new church was built, large and properly oriented, with a single apse. It is assumed that the war of the year 962, when the fortress occupied by Queen Willa, wife of King Berengar, was besieged by the imperial forces of Otto I, have led to severe damage of this medieval church. The present church has three naves, the Romanesque but with many changes of later centuries, was built in the twelfth century, modeled on the ancient cathedral of Novara. Inside, it houses a precious carved pulpit (made of black Oira marble) and supported by columns, a masterpiece of Lombard Romanesque sculpture of the twelfth century. The pulpit is all decorated with symbols dear to Christianity and a male figure, in all probability, depicting the reformer Guglielmo da Volpiano born on the island in the 962.
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