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Neoclassical and Nineteenth-century Brescia

Brescia Piazzale Arnaldo

After the brief Napoleonic upheaval, the Austrian yoke; from the revolt of the "Lioness of Italy" to Brescia a free city of the new united nation. 

On the fall of Venice the French took Brescia, and, in March 1797, Brescia became part of the Cisalpine Republic, like the Regno d'Italia, and remained so until the arrival of the Austrians (1814), who ruled Brescia as part of the Regno Lombardo Veneto until June 1859. The Napoleonic period was particularly fortunate for Brescian culture: the Ateneo di Scienze, Lettere e Arti (the Academy of Science, Literature and Art ) was founded, and men of the stature of Ugo Foscolo, Giovita Scalvini and Cesare Arici were producing their works here.

From the neoclassical period onwards the face of the city changed: as it complied with the canons of " the modern city" as defined by the Enlightenment. New chances to reorganise the town from an urbanistic and functional point of view derived from two important decisions taken in the Napoleonic period, which speeded up modernisation: first of all the confiscation of church lands, which made it possible to reorganise public services (a school in San Barnaba, a riding school in S. Antonio, barracks in the convents of S. Giulia and S. Eufemia - the cloisters are still occupied today by the recruiting office - and SS. Pietro and Marcellino on Cidneo Mount) and, at a later date, the progressive pulling down of the town walls, which lost their typically rugged appearance and, under Austrian rule, took on the function of customs and excise barrier instead of a defence for the city, because duty was levied on goods entering the town and customs control took place at the five city gates.

As the result of a Napoleonic decree in 1804 that forbade the burial of the dead within the city, a field outside the walls began to be used for this purpose. The task of designing a monumental cemetery there was given to the Brescian architect: Rodolfo Vantini,from whom the cemetery takes its name.

The complex of arcades, porticos, monuments and the great beacon (a fluted Doric column 60 metres high, resting on a circular base and surmounted by a lantern) which distinguish the cementery was conceived by Vantini as a unified architectural whole and given congruity by a rigidly historically correct, neoclassical style.

The "forma urbis" was definitively altered by the new road network and the later urbanisation of areas outside the old city walls, through which the new outer ring road ran. The first district to change its appearance was that traversed by the new Via Milano, which quickly became built up between the Vantini Cemetery and porta San Giovanni (nowadays Piazza Garibaldi). Other districts near the city gates were transformed too, partly because new markets grew up there near to the customs houses:  the Corn Market  in present-day Piazzale Arnaldo, near to Porta Torlonga or Torrelonga later called Porta Venezia, and the wine market at Porta S. Alessandro. In this way room was left for in the old centre to build new squares or constructions. The most important of these is the Teatro Grande (1808 - 1809).

In 1853 archeological excavations were started which brought to light the remains of the Capitolium and in 1830 the first Brescian museum was opened.

In 1853  the railway came to Brescia and the station in Habsburg military style is the last trace of when the town was part of Lombardo Veneto.

At the end of the century the disintegration of the ancient confines of the city and its expansion outside the razed city walls were articulated and controlled by vigilant legislation. The town council passed regulations for the restoration of the old city centre and the inclusion within the town boundaries of land on its outskirts, and drew up urban development plans for the construction of housing for workers along the ring roads and in the suburbs.