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History of Crema, Italy


See Crema guide for highlights and historic monuments

Founded in the Island of “Fulcheria” and emerging from the marshes of the ancient Lake Gerundo, Crema became an important city and a free municipality only in the 11th century, when Matilda of Canossa ceded it to the Bishop of Cremona.

However the population of the area can be traced back to the fourth millennium BC, as evidenced by the discovery of artefacts (that can be seen in the Civic Museum of Crema) such as fragments of stone, arrowheads and stone axes.

The current city's origins seem linked, however, to the Longobard invasion of the sixth century AD, and there is an asociated legend which relates that the foundation of the city dates back to 570 when, with the arrival of the Longobards, the inhabitants of the area took refuge on the highest part of the Island of the Mosa, under the command of Cremete and then Fulcherio.

It is from these two founders that the place names came - hence "Crema" and "Insula Fulcheria” - but see 'etymology' further down this page.

Medieval Crema

The first appearance of Crema in medieval documents dates back to around 1000 AD, when the city was a possession of the Counts of Camisano. Afterwards it was ruled by Bonifacio, Marquis of Tuscany (985-1052),  and his daughter Matilda (1046-1115), who, in 1098, gave the city to the Bishop of Cremona.

In 1159, having formed an alliance with Milan against Cremona, Crema was invaded and destroyed by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190). With the Peace of Constance (1185), the city was rebuilt as a "castrum", and it later became a free municipality, adding a new town wall. The Cathedral and the Praetorian Palace date back to the 13th century.

The autonomy of the town ended in 1335 when Crema was conquered by Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402), before becoming part of the Republic of Venice. Crema, now under the dominion of the "Serenissima", gained many privileges, and it remained under Venetian rule for three centuries, during which it found some political stability.

The Venetian imprint is still visible in various public places, including the walls that enclose, even today, the old town, with the  Town Hall (1525-1533) and the Palace of the “Notaria” (now the Bishop's Palace).

In 1580 the city became a Diocese, and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Croce was built. Later still, after the French and  Austrian domination, the city became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Crema

Scholars of the 19th century offered the most varied origins of the name. Some thought that Crema was given this name because it was founded by the inhabitants of "Cremna", a city of the “Pamphylia”, when they migrated to Italy.

Others said that Crema comes from the Latin verb “cremare” ("burn"), while other thought that "Crema" was only the "apocope" (i.e. the last syllable being dropped) of the city name of "Cremo-na". Also sometimes an etymology is quoted that derives the name from the Greek ("Krema"), in which Crema means "market" or "store".

The most accepted etymology now derives the name "Crema" from a Celtic root: "[...]Other Celtic terms that relate to soil characteristics have given the name 'Caravaggio' (in the Province of Bergamo), Latin 'Carabus', 'heap of stones'; in Cremona and Crema, from the root 'cram-carm', 'rock' [...]" [G Boot] [1].

Also in accordance with G. Boot is the Etymological Dictionary of P. Passarelli, who, about Crema and Cremona, writes: "[...] The origin of the name, like that of Cremona, may be related to pre-Latin term 'Carra', (...) with the meaning  of 'rock', which, through the variations 'Carm' and then 'Cram', would come to the present form [...]" [2].

In conclusion, Crema would mean "city set on a rock" (the only 19th century scholar who, with truly brilliant intuition, approached the most accepted theory of today was Carlo Denina, who wrote that "[...] Crema must be of ancient Celtic or Teutonic Foundation [...]") [3].

See also the Crema guide for visitors

References

 1. See G. G. Boot, “L'Italia dei Celti” ["Italy of the Celts"], 2003:179

2. See P. Passarelli, “Lombardia”, Istituto Enciclopedico Italiano [" Lombardy ", Encyclopaedic Italian Institute], 2001: 276

3. See Carlo Denina, “Quadro istorico, statistico e morale dell'Alta Italia e dell'Alpi che la circondano” ["Historical , Statistical and Moral Framework of Upper Italy and Its Surrounding Alps"] Pirotta and Maspero, 1806: 25

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