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DIOCESE OF TORTONA (DERTONENSIS)

Diocese in Piedmont, Italy. The city is situated on the spurs of the northern Apennines, on the right bank of the Scrivia, in a plain rich in cereals, wine, hemp, rice, and silk. The cathedral is of the sixteenth century, built after Charles V had destroyed the ancient cathedral situated on a hill which dominated the city, to make room for a fort. In the cathedral, besides pictures of the Lombard School, there is an antique sarcophagus carved with the myths of Phaeton and of Castor and Pollux. Other churches are the very ancient S. Maria Canale, S. Giacomo, and the oratories of Loreto and S. Rocco.

The city of Dertona was founded, or established as a Roman colony, in 147 B.C., at the time of the construction of the Via Posthumiana, which connected Piacenza with Genoa. As two other very important roads for Pisa and Provence began here, Dertona was, under the Empire, an important military station. From the ninth century it was under the rule of its bishop, and in 1090 it became a commune. In the struggles of the Middle Ages Tortona was the faithful ally of the Guelphs, for which reason it was several times destroyed, e.g. in 1155 by Barbarossa and in 1163 by the Pavians. From 1260 to 1347 the city was alternately under the dominion or protectorate of the imperial vicars, the marqueses of Montferrat, the Visconti of Milan, and the kings of Naples. From 1347 it formed a part of the Milanese state, the fate of which it shared until 1735, when by virtue of the Treaty of Vienna it was occupied by the King of Sardinia.

According to legend, which is, however, a late one, the first Bishop of Tortona was St. Martianus martyred under Hadrian. It is certain that, in the first half of the fourth century, Tortona was subject to the Diocese of Vercelli. The first bishop, according to Savio, was St. Innocent, who he believes was the predecessor of St. Exuperantius (381), the first of whom we have certain historical record, and who was highly praised in a sermon of St. Maximus of Turin. Few other names of bishops of the early period are known; but from the tenth century the list is more complete, comprising: Giseprandus (about 943), who was at the same time Abbot of Bobbio ; Ottone (1080), a follower of the schism of Henry IV ; Guido (1098), who went to Palestine; Bishop Pietro, one of those who in 1241 were made prisoners by Frederick II, while on their way to attend the Council of Rome. Melchiorre Busetto was killed by the followers of the Marquess Guglielmo of Montferrat, for which the marquess lost all his rights of patronage in the Diocese of Tortona, and was compelled, barefoot and clad in a shirt only, to walk from the scene of the bishop's murder to the cathedral. In the time of Michele Marliano (1461) the body of St. Rochus was found at Vaghera, which was the cause of a lengthy controversy with Arles, which possessed the relics of St. Rochus of Montpellier. Uberto Gambara (1528), afterwards a cardinal, was always absent as papal legate or nuncio in Germany, and renounced the bishopric in favour of his relative Cesare (1548), present at the Council of Trent . Maffeo Gambara (1592) distinguished himself in reforming the church, as did also the Theatine Paolo Aresio (1620). In 1805 the diocese was suppressed by the French Government and united with Casale, and on its re-establishment in 1814 it was taken from the metropolitan See of Turin and made suffragan to Genoa. The diocese has 296 parishes, 317,865 souls, 570 secular and 30 regular priests, five monasteries, five convents for women, three educational institutions for males, and five for females.


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