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Sunday 25 September 2016, Sant'Aurelia
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Chiesa di San Zeno Maggiore

Historical Notes. San Zeno was the eighth bishop of Verona. The basilica dedicated to him is one of the masterpieces of Romanesque art in Italy. Between the IX and XIII centuries, the abbacy was the richest and most powerful monastery in Verona. Various emperors sojourned there. The plague of 1630 decimated the monastic community, which became extinct. The monastery was suppressed by the Serenissima Republic in 1770. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the devastation of the buildings of the former abbacy began, which were sold to private parties. In 1831 the last remnant of the abbacy building crumbled.

Architecture and Art. The great basilica is the result of three principle moments in history: built in the IX century, it was restored between 1120 and 1138 and was enlarged during the XIII-XIV centuries. Alongside the basilica, the tall bell tower points to the sky; like the embattled tower, it dates from 1045: the belfry has two orders of three-mullioned windows with columns and arches. The marvellous rose window by Master Briolato stands out on the façade of the building. It is also known as the “wheel of fortune”. The wooden portal is lined with 48 precious bronze forms, with scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the miracle of San Zeno. On the wall of the basilica, there is a massive and rough Roman tomb which, according to an inexact inscription, contains the remains of King Pipin. The interior has three naves, divided by pillars and columns, with XIII and XIV century frescoes. The fourteenth century ceiling is shaped like the keel of a ship. On the left, as you enter, there is an enormous monolithic porphyry cup, from the Roman hot springs. On the right side, a large baptismal fountain can be seen. It is monolithic and octagonal in shape. This fountain is attributed to Briolato. As you proceed to the upper church you will not the statue of San Procolo and a polychrome marble statue of San Zeno, which has been named “San Zeno laughing”. This dates back to the XII century. The actual presbytery supports the icon that frames the triptych by Mantegna, which depicts the Madonna on the throne among the Saints. The crypt, restored in 1938, is empty: only the monolithic altar that rises in the middle contains the remains of the Saint.

Source: Notiziario BPV numero 4 anno 1990, Guide 02, Giubileo

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Guides: Firenze, Roma, Venezia, Verona.