Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata
By 1392, the site held a small oratory to shelter a miraculous image of St. John the Baptist and was neighboring a religious confraternity that had an equally miraculous image of the Virgin and child on the facade. The popularity of the icons led to the construction, starting in 1521 and using plan by Bernardino and Giovanni Francisco Zaccagni with modifications by Gian Francesco d'Agrate. The dome is attributed to designs (1526-1527) of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. The church was finally consecrated in 1539. The sacristy was rebuilt over the following centuries.
The interior was decorated by prominent artists, both local and foreign to Parma. The Baroque altar in the choir was begun by Mauro Oddi and completed in 1758-1765 by Andrea and Domenico della Meschina. In the sacristy and sanctuary, many of the fresco figures and decorations were painted or planned by a young Parmigianino. Michelangelo Anselmi painted a large fresco in the apse of the Coronation of the Virgin with Saints (1541) and a later Adoration of the Magi.
Other artists include Bernardino Gatti, who frescoed parts of the ceiling. The Dutch painter Jan Soens painted a Holy family. Giambettino Cignaroli painted a Trinity with Saints Niccolò, Basilius, and Gregory. A somewhat retrograde mannerist Madonna and Bambino, with Saints Joseph & George was painted by Marcantonio Franceschini in 1718. A mannerist Redeemer with St. Anthony of Padua and the Magdalen was painted by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli, based on a commission from 1605 for the price of 60 ducats and 76 soldi. The Parmesan painter Aurelio Barili painted frescoes in 1588.
In the crypt are the tombs of twenty-six members of the Farnese family including Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his wife Infanta Maria of Portugal. Also the later (titular) Dukes of Parma and Piacenza (of the House of Bourbon-Parma) found here their final resting place. In a niche is a crystal urn containing the heart of Charles III, Duke of Parma.
On 28 August 2010, the body of Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, former Head of the House of Bourbon-Parma between 1977 and 2010 and ex-husband of Princess Irene of the Netherlands, was interred in the crypt.