According to tradition a member of the Polini noble family, after dueling against one of the Savoia, was forced to leave Piedmont to settle in Brescia. Here, he bought some houses in Via Rossovera and Corso Mameli, which form the so called “Corte dei Polini”. Other documents report that the owner of these houses was a pelt merchant called Cristoforo Polini, whose descendants built in the 18th century the palace bearing their same name in Via Moretto.
Points of Interest
The head was discovered in 1956 while excavating the site of a Roman theatre, between the so called “aula dei pilastrini” (pillars’ room) and the western entrance to the theatre.
It is a valuable and special object, even though the face is damaged especially around the nose, mouth and hair.
The head was part of the colossal statue of a goddess, sculpted according to the technique of acroliths that are sculptures created from assembled pieces. Such technique was particularly diffused in the Greek and Roman world for cult statues of colossal size: only the naked parts of the body were made of marble, the remainder was a sort of wooden structure concealed by drapery - often in painted plaster - or by gilding.
The precious tablet was part of the collection of Count Paolo Tosio, inherited by Brescia Municipality in 1844 and founding core of Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo. The Tosio collection
was mainly composed of paintings, but also sculptures, prints, and drawings. The distinguished owner distributed it in his house with the help of Rodolfo Vantini, who arranged some dedicated rooms with the most important pieces. The Count’s taste oriented him towards Neoclassical artists (among contemporaries) and to painters who, in the past, embodied the same ideals of beauty and harmony. He is responsible for the acquisition of two paintings by Raphael, among the most valuable pieces of Pinacoteca and also of this Virgin with Child and young Saint John the Baptist, which in the 19th century was one of the most admired paintings of the collection.
Conceived as a consular diptych to celebrate the election of Marius Manlius Boethius – father to Boethius the philosopher - as Roman consul in 487 AD, this precious artifact underwent a radical transformation through time from its secular use to an ecclesiastical purpose.
The front ivory leaves portray the Roman consul standing motionless on the left; on the right, he is sitting on a cathedra as he presides over the circus games. In both portraits the consul holds a scepter crowned with a flying hawk in his left hand, and in the right he holds the mappa, a linen cloth used to start off the races of quadrigas, a tradition probably introduced by Nero.
In the right leaf the consul is pictured in the exact moment when he starts off the race, but he is not interacting with a narrative scene, which can only be imagined. This is meant to be a purely representative image, where the consul seems detached from the world (just like a king or a saint), fixed and frozen in sober and simple gestures.
The slab in white, medium-grained marble presents part of a battle among seven Amazons. Two of them are riding a horse and one is standing beside her steed; they are wearing a Phrygian cap, the Greek kiton pinned on the left shoulder leaving the right breast naked, and boots with flaps, called embades. The Amazons are fighting against six naked warriors, some wearing a helmet and one on the ground wearing a klamis.
The term phalera, unusual in our modern vocabulary, is a word of Latin origin, and indicates a metal object such as a boss, or various decorations used as military ornaments to be worn on the chest or left hanging from horses’ trappings.
Most probably, the phalerae from Manerbio were decorations for the harnesses of two horses. They are fourteen, all preserved in the section dedicated to the protohistory of Brescia territory of Santa Giulia Museum. Fourteen embossed silver disks, two large (average diameter 19 cm) and twelve small (10 cm), found together with fragments of other four curved longitudinal elements and three small silver chains.
The phalerae were found by accident, as it often happens with the most exceptional archaeological findings. They were buried under “two shovelfuls of soil” (about 50 cm), and found in February 1928 by the farmers of Gorno noble family while they were expanding the dung hole near Cascina Remondina, not far from Manerbio village. This treasure was immediately passed on to police officers and on 11th Feburary 1928 was in the hands of Giorgio Nicodemi, at that time director of Brescia Museums. Acquired by the State, the phalerae were temporarily loaned to Civiche Raccolte d’Arte in Brescia (today Civic Museums of Art, History and Science) where they are still preserved. They seemed some extraordinary objects right from the beginning, so unique that they were initially considered as products from the Langobardic era. Instead, they are one of the pieces produced by Celtic masters in metalworking. Carlo Albizzati was the first that in 1933 recognized them as “the most peculiar artifacts of Celtic art that our country is proud to own”.
It is a medieval house located at the crossroad of Decumanus Maximus (East-West direction) and Cardo Maximus (North-South direction) of the Roman city. Probably erected on the ruins of Roman buildings in the 12th century by the noble family of Palazzi, who had its residence here, Ezzelino da Romano had it cut when he took hold of the city in 1258. The name is said to derive from a neighbouring temple dedicated to Hercules. The tower is 15 metres tall and was built using stone blocks from ancient Roman buildings, as it is stated on the inscribed plate on the eastern side of the tower.
Teatro Sociale owes its origins to the history of the family of Luigi Guillaume, a French nobleman who fled Lyon with his wife Maddalena during the Revolution.
The Guillaumes, mixed with a group of travelling street acrobats and actors so as to cheat their pursuers, reached Italy in a most adventurous way. They eventually found that the fascinating circus lifestyle suited their situation as expropriated and exiled family.
Both skilled riders, used to hone their sporting abilities, the Guillaumes formed their own company and started to tour Europe. By chance, or by choice, at some point they chose Brescia as their permanent residence. They bought a palace in the city centre and started to spend time with the eminent families in Brescia, in the spare time between trips and shows.
Halfway through the 19th century the heir of the Guillaume family acquired an area in the city centre and built a wooden theatre dedicated to equestrian shows, theatrical performances and public gatherings. The other brothers, in their turn, formed travelling companies that achieved great success in Italy and abroad. In 1873 the theatre was rebuilt in a more elegant outline to become the temple of the high-ranking bourgeoisie of Brescia who wanted to have some fun. In 1903 the Guillaume family left the theatre, which was bought by a group of people who restored it entirely following a flawless Art Nouveau style – according to the architectural trend of the time – and baptized it under the name “Teatro Sociale”.
Built at the end of the 13th century in a Romanesque style, the church belonged to the Avogadro family: they lived in the neighbouring palace, which now houses the Catholic University. It was damaged by a bombing raid during World War II. On the outside there are small earthenware arches intertwining under the cornice that goes all round the building. On the façade (spoilt by the large rectangular window) there is a stone portal surmounted by a rounded arch. On the right hand side of the building there is a small Romanesque door with a cross in high relief.
At the foot of Cidneo hill lies the former monastery of S. Chiara Vecchia, which today hosts the Faculty of Economics and Commerce of Università degli Studi in Brescia.
The first reliable information on the existence of a monastery in this area dates back to the first half of the 13th century. The date of August 1st, 1232 appears on the act through which the Archbishop of Brescia Cavalcano de Salis extended to the nuns of the Order of S. Damiano residing in the convent of S. Maria near Petriolo a privilege given by Pope Alexander III to Agnola. The privilege consisted in the exoneration from the Episcopal jurisdiction of “ecclesiam et locum S. Mariae sitam in civitate Brixiae apud portam Pedrioli”, except for the consecration of the church and the altars, the blessing of the Prioress and the nuns, and the use of the Sacraments whenever it was requested by the nuns. This privilege was confirmed in a few lines also in another document registered shortly after, dated November 29th, 1255: it stated that Pope Alexander IV, by accepting under his protection the community of nuns, ordered that in such community they could perpetually practice the monastic order according to the rule of Saint Benedict and to the norms of San Damian already prescribed to them by his predecessor Pope Gregory. From the document it is clear that the nuns owned the area on which the community thrived, but also all the properties acquired or inherited from religious or common people in the future. It is not clear when exactly the Benedictine rule was abandoned in favour of the Franciscan one but, from some selling acts, it seems probable that this happened in the last quarter of the 13th century. No trace remained of the buildings that constituted this first settlement because as time passed they have been transformed and enlarged. Among these changes, the first is linked to a tragic accident that marked Brescia in 1508, when the tower called Mirabella del Castello, used as gunpowder deposit, exploded because of a thunder that hit it. This fact caused numerous damages to the surrounding area, and particularly to the S. Chiara monastery.