Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Basilica of San Zeno in Verona

The Basilica of San Zeno in Verona is an extraordinarily beautiful church which I recently had the pleasure of visiting. Saint Zeno, who was born in Africa, was one of the earliest Bishops of Verona and converted the whole town to Christianity. The Basilica, which houses his relics, dates from the 10th/11th centuries and is one of the most perfect examples of Romanesque architecture in Northern Italy. The façade, of alternating tufa stone and bricks, is dominated by Brioloto’s Wheel of Fortune, a large engraved rose window. Stairs lead down to the Crypt which contains Saint Zeno’s remains, beneath the upper church.
Statues of Christ and the Apostles stand on the parapet of the upper church:
Detail of the carving on the pillars of the crypt:
The view from the crypt looking up into the nave:
Mantegna’s famous altarpiece was stolen by Napoleon in 1797. It was returned some years later, missing the predella which was replaced with copies of the originals by Caliari. The original scenes, The Prayer in the Garden of Olives, The Crucifixion and The Resurrection now reside in the Louvre and the Museum of Tours.
At a side altar is Torbido's altarpiece, a Madonna with Child among St Anne, St Zeno, St Sebastian and St Christopher:
This statue, known as the laughing or smiling San Zeno, dates from the 13th century. It is also known as the Fishing San Zeno:
The 14th century cloister:
San Zeno is known in particular for its beautiful frescoes from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries which adorn the walls of the basilica:
Many of the frescoes have been inscribed with graffiti, much of it referring to historical events such as earthquakes and floods lest they be forgotten. This one, of Saint Benigno and Saint Caro transporting Saint Zeno’s body, has the date 1390 inscribed, referring to the seizure of Verona on 29 June that year:
The frescoes which form part of altar pieces are free of graffiti, presumably spared out of respect. Those higher up the walls and safely out of reach are also intact, such as these two, of the Madonna and Child and St George and the Dragon which date from the 15th century:
If you are ever near Verona, do visit, it's spectacular. (Photos: Charles Cole)

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