Bra probably was founded at the beginning of the 11th century at the behest of the inhabitants of the nearby Pollenzo, in slow decline, and it was the stronghold of powerful warrior lords: the De Brayda of the Guelph side, and then it passed under the lead of the Ghibelline Asti. The Angevins were at the lead in 1313, the Visconti in 1339 and the Orléans in 1387, then the town was given as a dowry of the duke Gian Galeazzo to his daughter Valentina who married Luigi, the brother of the French king Charles VI the Madman. Subsequently it was conquered by Emanuele Filiberto in 1552 and it became part of Piedmont seven years later, with the treaty of Chateau-Cambrèsis and the Savoy dynasty. Bra was very faithful, as evidenced by an episode of 1706 when the French dominated the state, even besieging Turin. Sacked by the soldiers of La Feuillade and finally subjected to a burdensome contribution of thirty thousand Piedmontese, the city of Bra, as soon as he learned that Vittorio Amedeo Il and Prince Eugenio were preparing to attack to block Turin, sent all his brave men to run to free it. But that is not all. In that period of great misery, a delegation of the Municipality went to the hill of Superga, from the sovereign without a crown, delivering in his hands even the sum of 200 liras double, advanced by the imposition of the invaders. These and other merits earned Bra also the towered urban crown by King Carlo Emanuele III, once reserved exclusively for the provinces or bishoprics.
What to see
It is undoubtedly the oldest building in the city, and it is an elegant stately home of the fifteenth century, with three floors of ogival mullioned windows decorated with terracotta and battlement, added in 1688.
Church of Sant’Andrea
It presents itself with its great Baroque façade completed only in the past century. Realised by the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, inside it was finished, after the death of the designer, following the style of Guarino Guarini. It has a monumental high altar with five statues by Davide Calandra and a valuable canvas by Claudio Beaumont, visible on a side altar. The sails of the dome and other frescoes and paintings are by nineteenth-century painters: Luigi Vacca, Paolo Gaidano, Paolo Emilio and Luigi Morgari and Agostino Cottolengo, the latter from Brava. In the centre of the square where the church stands, you can admire the bronze monument of San Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo erected in 1902 by the sculptor Celestino Fumagalli.
Church of Santa Chiara
Designed by the architect Bernardo A. Vittone, it was built in the mid-18th century, it has a Greek cross plan and a bizarre dome supported by columns superimposed on each other.
Church of Santissima Trinità
Better known as the ‘Chiesa dei Disciplinati’, it has magnificent baroque stuccoes and, among the many works to be mentioned, four large frescoes by Sebastiano Taricco.
Church of Beata Vergine Degli Angeli
Also known as the Friars church, it was built by Vittone with an oval plan, it has a curious bombè façade in exposed bricks and it is preceded by a short staircase which can be accessed from Piazza XX Settembre. Inside there are remarkable paintings by L. Morgari.
Church of San Giovanni Decollato
It was built at the Archconfraternity of the Misericordia or “dei Battuti Neri” in 1680. It has a single nave with a rich marble altar.
It is an interesting museum of natural history established in 1843 that contains remarkable collections started since 1818 by Angelo Craveri and developed by his sons Ettore and Federico. It has been repeatedly enriched.
Santuary of the Madonna dei Fiori
The legend tells that one day two mercenaries saw a beautiful young bride, Egidia Mathis, on a deserted street. They approached her with libertine compliments and grabbed her, greedy, before the unhappy man could try to escape. Debating to avoid the attack of the aggressors, Egidia falls on her knees, with her hands joined, in front of a pillar bearing the image of the Madonna and she turned to her for help. It is said that a dazzling lightning came down from the sky causing the woman to lose consciousness and forcing the two criminals to flee. When she recovered, Egidia saw the Virgin at his side, blazing in her light that comforted her and the vision disappeared, all the blackthorns stripped around the avenue, bloomed, although it was a cold winter. From that day every year, around Christmas, thousands of faithful flock to see the white flowering of the clumps, bare of foliage, which still vegetate at the Sanctuary. It is a variety that botanists call prunus braydensis. The chronicles report that only in 1877 the miraculous shrubs did not flourish almost to herald the death of Pius IX, but the event took place on February 20 of the following year, the day in which the Conclave elected the new Pope Gioacchino Pecci in Rome which was Leo XIII. Not opening its corollas in winter, the bramble warned, instead, of the imminence of serious calamities, as happened in 1914 and in 1939, on the eve of the two great world wars.
It rises, making us forget the primitive name of Monte Guglielmo, on a small hill. It is a massive round Capuchin and deconsecrated church with a belvedere dome, which dominates Bra from its 365 meters from the ancient citadel of Rocca Ponteria, destroyed by the ferocious De Brayda. It offers a vast panorama over the Cuneo plain, the western Langhe and, in part, the hills of the Oltre Tanaro.