From Piazza Paolo VI to Piazzetta S. Marco
The tour starts from Piazza Duomo, now Piazza Paolo VI
to honour the Pope G.B. Montini, from Brescia (1897-1963). The present appearance of the square dates back to the 18th century and it’s the result by the side of historical stratification, started in the Roman Age. On the west side there was the Baptistery of S. Giovanni (615), destroyed in 1625, of which there is still one round tile portraying the Saint’s head, on the wall in the house opposite the Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral).
In the middle of the same building, a stone portico shows up, surmounted by a Gothic window with three lights, of the ancient Camerlenghi Palace, residence of the Visconti soprintendent at the munitions. In the middle of the square there are two fountains of the 18thcentury: on the north side the fountain with the statue of Minerva by Cignaroli and on the south side the reproduction of Calegari’s one, with the statue of “Brescia armed”. At the east side there are the Duomo Nuovo, the Duomo Vecchio
and the Palazzo Broletto
(Broletto Palace, from brolo “fenced orchard” or “garden with trees”).
The characteristic of Palazzo Broletto is the outer wall intended to protect the inside arcades. The façade, in medolo, which looks onto the square (1232) is relieved, on the top, with bricks, polyphores and various decorations. The portal of admittance (1606) presents two columns in egyptian granite, former roman, coming from the Cathedral of S. Pietro de Dom (5thcentury); on the right pillar there is a Madonna with child (14th century) and on the left one the Justice and the S. Marco’s lion, grazed by jacobins. On the north side of the portal, in Vicolo S. Agostino (
Vic. S. Agostino is fairly uphill), the Malatesta S. Agostino Church (beginning of the 15thcentury, subsequently incorporated to the Broletto’s wing in 1610and now meeting hall of the Province of which just the wonderful brick front remains, with two stone lion heads, the rose window and the three windows with slightly pointed arches, late-Gothic in the decoration with small arches and fretwork, and the simple stone architraved portal surmounted by a pointed curve lunette. At the south of the admittance portal to the Broletto, rises the Torre del Pégol o del Popolo, with strong scarp in ashlar and Ghibelline merlons not original, and the romanic Loggia delle Grida (13th century), destroyed during the revolt of 1797 and rebuilt in 1902.
Original, even if restored, are five of the pictures, probably of “antelamica” school, that support the big corbels. The admittance to the Loggia was through the door set between a window with three lights and one with four lights, characterized by the full centre intrados and by the pointed curve extrados and almond cutline. On the top, under the tympanum there is a small mulloned window with two lights. From the portal you can reach the lobby where there is a fourteenth century fresco portraying a Madonna with child and a fifteenth century sculpture representing Justice. Coming into the bigger courtyard (
The courtyard of the Broletto has an uneven paving somewhere) with the central fountain (1718), we can see the inside faces of the palace: on the west side the five brick windows with traces of frescos in the lunettes and under the eaves.
On the southern side (built on the area of the Poncarali houses , whose remains, by now consolidated in the roof, are just the tower in ashlar stone, that was cut short by Ezzelino da Romano in 1528, over the ‘reason’ arcade’ , now walled, there are two big windows with four lights with small columns, capitals and bowings, as well as two windows with three lights of antelamico style (1220- 1230) with arches in botticino marble and double small columns, smooth and twisted in red marble of Verona, like the moulding cordon of the window-sill. On the capitals of the left window with four lights there are twelve figurations of the months with eight signs of the zodiac, while the right window with four lights keeps a fresco of the 14th century with nobiliary coat-of-arms in the lunette. The balcony in wrought iron was added in the early 15th century.
The northern side, with ashlar arcade with seven arches and architraved upper loggia of 1626 (nowadays seat of the Prefecture Offices), is the addition
that mostly disagree with the former buildings. On the eastern side there is still the original double arcade with curve pointed arches which in the 15thcentury was covered by vaults with big brick ribs. From the entrance-hall starts the grand staircase that leads to the Podestà hall (nowadays seat of the Municipal Registry Office) with frescos by Gandino, Sandrini and Giugno (1610). From the monumental exit (1609), we arrive in via Mazzini where, on the right we find the visconteo wall with scarp and moat, remains of the Cittadella Nova. We reach the crossing with via Cattaneo where, at n. 15, there is a beautiful face with walled original window and a curve pointed portal with mask in key. At the crossing with via Cereto there is the Torre d’Ercole, towerhouse (12th century) of the Palazzi family, built with remains of stony material coming from the Roman Forum, possibly near a temple of Hercules; it was cut short in 1258 by Ezzelino da Romano.
Turning right into via Cereto we arrive in vicolo S. Marco (
Vic. S. Marco and the homonymous Sqare have a cobbled paving somewhere uneven) to discover the small Church (12th century), formerly property of the noble Avogadro family. The simple and austere romanic structure is relieved by the pattern of brick twisted arches; the stone portal is surmounted by a round arch.
From piazzetta S. Marco to the Museo S. Giulia
Coming back to via Cattaneo, at the crossing with via Gambara there is a neoclassical fountain, singular for the plate with a poem on dedicated to it by Terenzio Formenti from Brescia. At n. 51 there is Palazzo Luzzago (now Monti della Corte - Masetti Zanini). The stone portal in ashlar-work stands out on the baroque facade, in prospect to give more depth and displaced on the left to face up vicolo Candia. Two are the series of windows with cornices interrupted by ashlars and the three ashlars in key, sormounted by two weathered in relief on the windows on the piano nobile. Bunches of fruit, alternated to the eaves big corbels and small windows among them, are situated under the cornice.
In the big arcade hall of the 15th century, the ribbed vaults are decorated with small frescos and, on the columns, the coat-ofarms of the Luzzago family and of other related families are engraved. At n. 55 there is the splendid palazzo Fenaroli (former Cigola di Muslone) built in the 16th and 17th centuries, with its austere and an imposing architecture, characterized by the marble façade of thin ashlar work (with gradation on the two floor) and by pilasters that divided the two fronts, on via Cattaneo (16th century) and on Piazza Tebaldo Brusato (17th century). The windows are surrounded by a simple framework and surmounted by a tympanum in relief, supported by two small corbels. The cornice is decorated with marble and female figures overflowing rain water. The portal by Beretta, with two powerful telamons on each side, and surmounted by a stone balcony with parapet adorned with small sirens and “silent”shield in the middle, medusa little heads and gryphons on the sides, leads to the western courtyard that is the oldest part of the palace: arcade with slim renaissance columns and the fluted capitals which supported an open gallery, now walled.
The eastern part, of the 12th century, overlooks Piazza Tebaldo Brusato and shows a grandiose façade raised in the middle by an attic. Going on along this side of the square we reach vicolo Settentrionale (
In Vicolo Settentrionale the paving is very uneven) that leads to via Musei, opposite the entrance of the Museo S. Giulia, UNESCO World Heritage since 2011.
Santa Giulia, The Museum of the City
The Museum of Santa Giulia
develops around the S. Salvatore plant, the convent of the benedictine nuns founded in 753 by Ansa, wife of the longobard king Desiderio and it looks like an articulate complex of buildings at the foot of the Castle, along via Musei, once the ‘decumanum maximum’of the roman city. The convent, risen on an area already occupied in the roman age by important domus, became, in the longobard time, one of the most important and prestigious conventual areas in Northern Italy and, in 915, it was dedicated to S. Giulia (
The S.Giulia Museum is completely accessible: the access ramps and some rooms are too step, The access to the Coro delle Monache is possible through the church of S. Giulia in via Piamarta. In the Museum there are restaurant and equipped toilets). In 1798 it was suppressed and swallowed up by the military land, and subsequently it became property of the Municipal District of Brescia. The complex grew up for following extensions, above all in the municipal age (12th century) and in the late 15th century, it develops around three cloisters and three churches of different periods: the longobard basilica of S. Salvatore, the romanesque church of S. Maria in Solario and the renaissance church of S. Giulia. The exhibition route of the Museum of the City (about 12.000 mq) recalls the history of Brescia, from the Bronze Age to Renaissance, through archaeological finds, mosaics, frescos, architectonic and decorative elements, statues and works of art. The sections are: in the basement the archaeological area, the prehistoric and protohistoric Age, the roman Age and the terrtory; on the ground floor the roman Age with the Ortaglia ’Domus, the early Middle Ages - Longobards and Carolingians - The church of S. Salvatore, the Commune and Seigniory Age, the Venetian Age and the Convent; on the first floor S. Maria in Solario, S. Giulia and the Nuns’ Choir.
From the S. Giulia Museum to Porta Bruciata
Going out of the Museum and turning right in via Musei, at n. 50 we find Palazzo Benasaglio (formerly Maggi di Gradella, dei Podestà) built towards 1554 by Beretta. The palace has a simple and elegant plain façade, with the portal framed by two high Doric grooved semicolumns and two orders of windows, enriched on the piano nobile by an architrave, resting on small corbels. The cornice is adorned with volutes above a fascia of ovules and drops; the hall has a wooden beams ceiling and the front supported by high Ionic columns; at the bottom of the courtyard, the neo-classical fountain by Vantini (1832) with the statue by Emanueli. Going on, we arrive in Piazza del Foro
The east side of Piazza del Foro has a paving somewhere uneven) , the centre of the Colonia Civica Augusta Brixia and now the centre of the most important archaeological site in Lombardia, UNESCO World Heritage since 2011. The forum extended from the decuman (via Musei) to via Cattaneo for a lenght of 139 mt. and it was 40 mt. wide. Here there is the grandiose Tempio capitolino or Capitolium.
Erected towards 73 a.C. (according to the inscription on the pediment) by the Emperor Vespasiano, on the ruins of the former republican temple, it was dedicated to the capitoline triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The building, on different levels, terraces and flights of steps, followed the ground slope with a remarkable stage effect. Leaning out of the parapet of via Musei, you can see the paving of the decuman: from there started a wide flight of steps between the two fronts in botticino marble, decorated with pilasters and blind pointed arcades which confined the holy area of the temple. The flight of steps led to the level space of the area capitolina, with a stylobate 3 mt high on three sides, on which the temple and the two arcade wings rested.
From this level another flight of steps started, with two fountains at both sides; it reached the pronao esastilo with columns (11 mt.), on which the triangular pediment is set. The Corinthian columns (sixteen, of which the only one intact is visible on the left), as well as the three cells inside, were reconstructed and integrated in the X19th century by the archaeologist Labus, with the collaboration of the architect Vantini and the painter Basiletti, in order to transform the temple in the native Museum that was inaugurated in 1830. In the central cell you can admire several votive, historic and sepulchral tablets placed on the walls according to the order given in the nineteenth century and four large altars. In the west cell there are three heads on small pillars, whereas in the east one there is an installation of suggestive multimedia supports. On the lower level, below the Temple, you’ll visit the fourth cell of the republican Sanctuary (
Platform lift access to the fourth cell of Sanctuary and to the cells of Capitolium in the west wing of the Temple)dating back to the first decades of the I century BC, preserved in an excellent state, with extraordinary cycle of frescoes of the interior walls.
From the two extremities of the ‘Capitolium’ stalls ’ two arcades started, flanking the forum which reached the Basilica or Curia, whose ruins are visible in piazzetta Labus (see tour n. 2).
On the east side of the square, at the corner with via Musei, there is the church of S. Zeno al Foro
(11th-12th century, rebuilt in 1709-1739) with an elegant railing separated by little pillars, crowned at the top by putti and couples of intertwisted dolphins. A few metres forward, we can see, 4,5 mt. below the road floor, the remains of the arcade marking the border of the roman Forum, from which the high marble column (6,50 mt.) with Corinthian capital (restaured and integrated in 1930) rises. On the west side of the square we find the most ancient part of the Palazzo Martinengo Cesaresco Novarino I° and II° (later Marazzani, Visconti) with the majestic sober marble façade of the 16th century (transformed in 1697) on which there are two twins portals with big ashlars, set in perspective way. The coat-ofarms with the eagle of the Martinengo family are in the middle of the arcade. The baroque side of the palace on via Musei (n. 32) is of the 17th century; it was finished in 1663 and today it is used for some art exhibitions (
Entrance to exhibition wing of Martinengo Palace, where only some halls are accessible, is possible at n. 32, informing the staff at the ticket office (not accessible). Equipped toilet).
On the front, the original main door by Carra, where the eagles of the Martinengo coat-of-arms were used as caryatids to support the overhanging balcony of stone and wrought iron. The bottom of the small courtyard is enriched by the beautiful fountain, with a niche on top with the statue of Scilla Martinengo and Cesare IV (1691). This palace was property of Marzia Martinengo who, in the spring of 1807, gave hospitality to the poet Ugo Foscolo, whom she loved. Going on along via Musei at n. 28 there is palazzo Cervi (now Ambrosi), with a sober and smart plaster façade, with a high splay portal, in ashlar work with mascaron.
In the same side of the street, there is the Church of S. Maria della Carità
the Church of S. Maria della Carità is not accessible) (1640 restored in the 18th century) whose façade is decorated with two columns of granite, coming from the ancient S. Pietro de Dom and with two statues of angels of white marble: Angel with lily by Calegari (1746) and Angel with the house by Ferretti and four false statues of prophets painted a fresco by Albricci (1774). Going beyond the crossing with via Mazzini, we walk under the Charity’s archivolt, the Visconti fly-over which allowed the protected and direct link of the Broletto with the garrison of the Castle (see tour n. 4); the east side is original, while the brick border on the west façade marks the part bombed in 1944. The image of the Madonna was put there in 1722 by the venetian “Capitanio”, who, at vesper time, came down to recite the litany with the “simple people”. Past the vault, we reach p.za Tito Speri, with the monument by Ghidoni (1888), dedicated to the Brescia’s hero of the X Giornate, hanged in 1853 on the bastions of Belfiore (Mantova). On the corner of the square, the fountain by Tagliaferri, built at the end of 1800 with some fragments coming from the adjoining monastery of Ss. Cosma and Damiano.
After few metres we find the Torre di Porta Bruciata (12th century). In the roman period this was the city door mediolanensis (later of Paraveredi or mail-coaches) that marked the west border of the city. The tower (seven floors, about 30 metres high) burnt several times; the present one, changed in the ghibelline battlement and in the corbels in the 14th century, is collocated in a compact building curtain, which was once part of the Cittadella Nova. In the 15th century the city door was the final destination of the “Women”, the “Infantrymen” and the “Knights” races starting from the Pallata (see tour n. 3).
Hidden among the houses, with the entrance under the vault, there is the church of S. Faustino in Riposo, known as S. Rita (end of the 12th century) erected on the ruins of a chapel (8th-9th century), whose name comes from the fact that the solemn procession carrying the bodies of the patrons SS. Faustino and Giovita stopped here to rest. Theoutside of the church, visible from the small square on the right side of the Porta Bruciata, is characterized by a cylindrical tambour with regular stones which supports a frustum of cone with big semicircular brick dentils on which, separated by a stone moulding , a cylindrical bellfry with round brick indented coffers is leaned.
From Porta Bruciata to piazza Paolo VI
Taking via Beccaria we come back to piazza Paolo VI where we end our tour visiting the Duomo Nuovo and the Duomo Vecchio. The Duomo Nuovo (
Access to the Duomo Nuovo by outside ramp on the consacrated ground), which was built between 1604 and 1825, towers over the east side of the square. The cupola, by Vantini, designed by Cagnola, was rebuilt after the bombing of 1943. The majestic façade, in white botticino marble, is organized on two orders of composite columns, with the triangular tympanum (in which the city coat-of-arm stand out) encircled at the top with the statues by Carboni, Salterio and Possenti (1792). On the central portal, among rich festoons, there is the the bust of the cardinalQuerini by Calegari; in the apse the two big statues of SS. Faustino e Giovita by Carra.
The majestic inside, with three naves and high columns, the grooved pilasters and the solid pillars supporting the grandiose cupola in whose pendentives, within big baroque volutes, there are the Evangelists’ busts by Calegari il Giovane and Carloni. Among the numerous works, we draw attention to: in the first altar on the right the big wooden Crucifix of the second half of 1400 and, in the lunette on the top, the Isacco’s Sacrifice by Moretto; on the third altar there is the Sarcophagrus of bishop Apollonio, built towards 1510 and that can be attributed to Olivieri, undoubtedly one of the most interesting sculptures of the period in Brescia. Above the confessional and in front of the door that leads into the sacristy there are two works by Nuvolone, respectively Ss. Nicola, Faustino and Giovita (1679) and S. Antonio da Padova. On the altar at the end of the right aisle (Faith and Humility) as well as in the presbytery (S. Gaudenzio and S. Filatrio) tower the statues by Calegari (1783- 89). At the end of the left aisle, on a marble 16th century altar, there is the Assunta’s Apparition to Ss. Carlo Borromeo e Francesco and to bishop Marin Giorgi (1627) by Palma il Giovane. In the middle part of the left side there is the Monument to Paolo VI (1984) by Scorzelli, surmounted on the wall by the Visitation, the Wedding and the Presentation to the temple by Romanino, which ornamented the organ in the Duomo Vecchio.
Next to the cathedral there is the DuomoVecchio or Rotonda (
Only the women's gallery part of the Duomo Vecchio can be visited) erected by the masters from Como (11th-12th century) on the ruins of the ancient basilica of S. Maria de Dom (VIth century) destroyed by a fire (1097); the Rotonda was altered many times during the centuries, from 1881 to 1898 it was restored to the original shape. Outside it has a body with circular plan with tambour with regular medolo ashlars and hemispheric cupola; the austere simplicity of the masonry is relieved by pilasters and by the frieze of the small brick arches under the roof, by the deep blind niches and by the three eyes, surrounded by a shaped cordon, which lightens the inside together with the small arched windows. The baroque portal is the copy of the one by Piantavigna of 1571.
The inside, severe and grandiose, winds around the wide central space covered by the cupola that rests on eight big round arches, supported by trapezoidal pillars. Around this space, with which it is linked by two staircases, there is a walk, suspended to the west side by a stretch used as a women’s gallery. Here we can admire the Sarcophagus of bishop Berardo Maggi (1308). In red marble of Verona, the sepulchre represents: on a slope, the Bishop supine with at the extremities the Evangelistes’ Symbols and the Ss. Faustino and Giovita; on the opposite slope, the Peace oath between guelfi and ghibellini, and at the extremities the Ss. Pietro e Paolo.
The small stairs beside the front door led to the tower which dominated the women’s gallery, collapsed in 1708; in the right space under the right staircase, a sculpture of the 13th century representing bishop S. Apollonio .From the women’s gallery we can admire: next to the right chapel, the campionese sarcophagus of bishop Balduino Lambertini (1349) and,next to the left one, the funeral monument of bishop Domenico de Dominici (1478). In the presbytery, marked out in black marble, you can see the original perimeter of the basilica and the fragments of some mosaics (6th century);behind the high altar (14th century) there is the Assumption by Moretto (1526), the ligneous stalls by Soresina (1522) and the grandiose organ by Antegnati (1536). In the middle of the transept the rich decoration in fresco of the 13th century is kept intact.
Duration of the itinerary: one day
From the guide "Brescia Possibile" by SLOWtime
For further information: http://www.slowtime.it/