|Casale Monferrato is a town in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy, part of the province of Alessandria. It is situated about 60 km east of Turin on the right bank of the Po, where the river runs at the foot of the Monferrato hills. Beyond the river lies the vast plain of the Po valley.
The origins of the town are fairly obscure. It is known that the Gaulish settlement of Vardacate (from var = ‘water’; ate = ‘populated place’) existed on the Po in this area, and that it became a Roman municipium. By the beginning of the eighth century there was a small town under Lombard rule, probably called Sedula or Sedulia. It was here (according to late and unreliable accounts) that one Saint Evasius, along with 146 followers, was decapitated on the orders of the Arian Duke Attabulo. Liutprand, King of the Lombards is said to have supported the construction of a church in honour of Evasius. Certainly the martyr’s cult flourished and by 988 the town had become known as Casale di Sant’Evasio.
At the time of Charlemagne, the town came under the temporal and religious power of the bishops of Vercelli, from which it was freed by Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Italy. It was sacked by the anti-imperial troops of Vercelli, Alessandria and Milan in 1215, but rebuilt and fortified in 1220. It fell under the power of the Marquess of Montferrat in 1292 , and later became the capital of the marquessate.
In 1536 it passed to the Gonzagas of Mantua, who fortified it strongly. Thereafter it was of considerable importance as a fortress: it successfully resisted the Austrians in 1849, and was strengthened in 1852.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century it became known as "Cement Capital" (capitale del cemento), thanks to the quantity of Portland cement in the hills nearby, and in the twentieth century it acquired printing press and refrigerator industries.