The former convent of Santa Croce in Bosco Marengo, with its monumental church in the hall, is one of the most significant architectural artistic ensembles of the second sixteenth century in Italy.
A singular island of Tuscan-Roman culture in the heart of northern Italy (enough to mention the exceptional nature of Giorgio Vasari's contribution, expressly desired by the client), it was one of the first major construction sites where new ideas and new images were applied. from the Counter-Reformation to the day after the Council of Trent.
The complex was commissioned by the Dominican Michele Ghislieri who, elected pope with the name of Pius V the 7
January 1566 (the only one from Alessandria and the only one from Piedmont), in the same year he approved the construction, in his hometown, of a large convent and its church - which should also have housed his remains - with the specific intention of making it a "monument-symbol ”, Bulwark of Christianity victorious against heresy.
Initially the idea was to understand the realization of a new city aggregated to the conventual foundation: perhaps also for this reason we see the presence of the Perugian Egnazio Danti, Dominican, cosmographer, mathematician and architect "excellent", between the 1567 and 1569 on the site . In fact, the architect of the factory was the Lombard Martino Longhi of Viggiù, much appreciated in the Roman artistic circles, active on the construction site since 1568, in collaboration, for some time, also with Giacomo Della Porta, another prestigious papal architect.
In the same years Giorgio Vasari provided the project for the great machine of the high altar (dismembered in the eighteenth century), personally executing many of the boards that covered it, and skilled carvers-carvers such as Angelo Marini and Giovanni Gargiolli provided the amazing wooden furniture of the church . The convent was already destined from the origin to the Order of the Dominican Preachers Fathers, to whom Ghislieri himself belonged.