Welcome to an ecclesial colossus. Cremona’s cathedral started out as a Romanesque basilica, but the simplicity of that style later gave way to an extravagance of designs. The interior frescoes are utterly overwhelming, with the Storie di Cristo (Stories of Christ) by Pordenone perhaps the highlights. One of the chapels contains what is said to be a thorn from Jesus' crown of thorns.

The cathedral was finished in 1107 but was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1117 and rebuilt by 1190. In subsequent centuries, various embellishments left traces of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque taste. As a result, Romanesque sculptures from the pre-earthquake church adorn the facade, whose upper part is largely the result of Renaissance renovation, meanwhile the brick north facade is a fine example of Lombard Gothic.

The central nave and apse have especially rich frescoes and paintings, with scenes dedicated to the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The local, Ferrara-born Renaissance master Boccaccio Boccaccino carried out many of them. Pordenone's mesmerising Storie di Cristo include the Crocifissione (Crucifixion) and Deposizione (Deposition); both are especially powerful and filled with curvaceous movement and voluptuous colour.

The cathedral's most prized possession is the Sacra Spina (Holy Thorn), reputed to be from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, which was donated to the church by Cremona-born Pope Gregory XIV in 1591. It's kept behind bars in the Capella delle Reliquie, in the left transept. In the crypt, the robed and masked body of Cremona's 12th-century patron saint, San Omobono Tucenghi, is on show in a glass casket.