The scalped belltower

The belltower of the main church in Sesto San Giovanni has a squared off top which earned it the name el quadretton, “the big square one”.
Santo Stefano and its topless belltower
The Santo Stefano church in Sesto San Giovanni and its topless belltower

This rather unimpressive, squat church is Santo Stefano, the main church in Sesto San Giovanni. It is located at the center of the older part of the town, what the old Sestese people still call el paes, “the village”. Up until the early XX century, Sesto was a rather underdeveloped sleepy farming center on the outskirts of Milano, on the way to Monza. The only more or less urban part of the town was this. The rest of the territory was essentially farms and luxury villas where well-off Milanese families would rest in the countryside.

The flat topped belltower in Sesto San Giovanni
The flat topped belltower in Sesto San Giovanni

When the first industries started drawing people, a new church was planned, Santo Stefano. According to plans the belltower ought to be finished off with a tall, conical hat. Unfortunately, by the time the belltower was built in the 1930’s, the planned belltower had become too tall. It was an obstcle to airplanes flying off the Breda aeronautica landing strip (where, by the way my grandparents worked). The solution found to this problem was simply and straightforward: instead of topping off the belltower with the planned roof, the tower was shortened by giving it a flat roof. This is how Sesto won its (rather ugly) belltower.

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