1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vercelli
VERCELLI (anc. Vercellae), a town and archiepiscopal see of Piedmont, Italy, in the province of Novara, 13 m. S.W. of that town by rail. Pop. (1901) 17,922 (town), 30,470 (commune). It is situated 430 ft. above sea-level on the river Sesia, at its junction with the Canterana. Vercelli is a point at which railways diverge for Novara, Mortara, Casale Monferrato and Santhia (for Turin). The walls by which Vercelli was formerly surrounded have been demolished, and their place is now occupied by boulevards, from which a fine view of the Alps (especially the Monte Rosa group) is obtained. The streets are for the most part tortuous and narrow; there is a large market-place (Piazza Cavour) with a statue of Cavour (1861), The cathedral is a large building dating from the 16th century; its library contains a number of rare ancient MSS., especially the Codex Vercellensis, one of the most important MSS. of the old Latin version of the Gospels, written in the 4th or 5th century by Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli. A museum close by contains Roman antiquities. The churches of S. Andrea (a large and fine Romanesque Gothic building dating from 1219-1224, with an interior in the French Gothic style), S. Paolo, S. Caterina and S. Cristoforo possess valuable examples of the work of Gaudenzio Ferrari (1471-1546) and of his follower Lanini. Silk-spinning is important, and Vercelli is one of the principal Italian centres of the exportation of cereals and especially of rice. There are corn and rice mills of large size,
while cotton and woollen mills and factories of artificial manure, &c, have attained importance.
Vercellae was originally the chief city of the Libici (a Ligurian tribe) and afterwards became a Roman municipium of some importance. It stood at the junction of roads to Eporedia, Novaria and Mediolanum, Laumellum (for Ticinum) and perhaps Hasta. No ancient remains exist above ground, but many inscriptions, tombs and other antiquities have been found. Remains of the theatre and amphitheatre were seen in the 16th century, and remains of ancient streets have more recently been found during drainage operations. There were apparently four principal streets all leading to the centre of the town where the Forum must have been situated. Of the walls, however, nothing is known except from medieval documents (cf. L. Bruzza, Iscrizioni antiche Vercellesi, Rome, 1874). In the neighbourhood (near Rotto on the Sesia) are the Raudii Campi where Hannibal won his first victory on Italian soil (218 B.C.), and where in 101 B.C. Marius and Catulus routed the Cimbri. From about 1228 till 1372 Vercelli was the seat of a university. (T. As.)