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Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Brescia

Brescia New Cathedral

The twilight of Venetian domination amid rivalry between citizens; the culture of the new age.

In the XVII century  the succession of famines and plagues ( those of 1630 are famous for their sad consequences), the result of natural causes and  wars, claimed many victims and slowed down the economic growth of Brescia and the territory around.

Furthermore Venice no longer defended her inland possessions, being far more interested in safeguarding her Mediterranean lands and constantly engaged in hostilities with the Turks. Towards the end of the XVII century the decline of Venice began to affect Brescia. The way Brescia was fortified made her an impregnable stronghold and wars were not fought nearby, but the greatest damage was caused by the obligatory passage of foreign troops across the southern part of the province and around Lake Garda as they moved between the various battle fields appropriating everything they found. Venice deplored and condemned this frequent violence and looting but did not intervene.

Thus from the early XVIII century on Brescia became increasingly aware that it was no longer protected by Venice, who could not prevent the contendents in the Spanish War of Succession (Venice was neutral) from choosing  Brescian territory for decisive battles.

After the radical changes of the preceding centuries which had redrawn the architectural and urbanistic physiognomy of Brescia, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were essentiallya time of setting the city in order from an architectural point of view. Public works concentrated on limited and specific objectives (the building of the Casa di Dio and the neighbouring church of San Carlo in present-day Via Moretto, the laying out of the fairground outside the walls along the road to Milan). There were few important new buildings but many refurbishments and transformations (the Broletto underwent the most important one), while many existing churches and palaces were given new showy facades of white Botticino marble

It was during this period of decline that in 1729 Cardinal Angelo Maria Querini became Bishop of Brescia; he was a Benedictine monk and former Bishop of Corfu and was to have a strong influence on the religious and cultural life of the period. He built the Biblioteca Queriniana (a library), which still has the original decorations and shelves, and put new life into the building of the Duomo Nuovo (new cathedral) on the site of the demolished cathedral of San Pietro de Dom, after it had been dragging on since the beginning of the XVII century.

The building of the Duomo and the church of SS.Faustino and Giovita are the two most important construction works of the century. They broke away from the traditional rectangular plan for religious buildings laid down in Brescia by Bagnadore (S. Afra and San Domenico), who designed churches in the form of a cross with a nave and no lateral aisles, a barrel roof and side chapels, just as they moved away from significant examples of Baroque and classical architecture to be found respectively in the churches of San Barnaba (1632 - 75) and Santa Maria della Pace (1720 - 46).

The noble palaces built after the middle of the seventeenth century hark back to the sixteenth century plan, but aim for showier and more theatrical effects and are typified by elements (porches, portals, railings and gardens) designed to produce the effect of perspective: the best example of this tendency is Palazzo Suardi, in present-day Via Trieste.