Bergamo, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

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MappaBergamo, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

A remarkable example of Lombard Romanesque, building work started in 1137 (twelfth century) thanks to a town vote which promised the construction of a splendid church in exchange for the end of the plague epidemic which had afflicted the city.
The primitive Romanesque structure (one nave and two aisles, with two major portals, two minor portals and an octagonal cupola) has been reworked over the centuries to the point where it is now very difficult to detect it. The most radical change was the construction of the Colleoni Chapel in the place of the old sacristy, at the same time as the addition, on the northern side, of the new sacristy. The Gothic steeple which dominates the portal is, in turn, an addition made in the fifteenth century. All the portals are the work of Giovanni da Campione. Of these the one next to the Colleoni Chapel (1353) deserves particular attention, as it blends Romanesque features (the round type of arch, the decoration of the portal depicting medieval animals and warriors), with a more exquisitely Gothic flavour. Giovanni da Campione is actually one of the last of the group of so-called "Campionese masters", who lived and worked in the transitional period from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. The equestrian statue of St Alexander by the same artist, which dominates the portal can already be fully classed as Gothic style.
The inside has also been radically changed compared to the original Romanesque structure, by decorations in stucco and marble from the seventeenth century; a wooden choir by Andrea Previtali (1470-1528) and Bernardino Zenale (1450-1526, one of the architects who contributed to the building of Milan Cathedral), following a design by Lorenzo Lotto; a wooden confessional by Andrea Fantoni, an interesting example of baroque art; Flemish tapestries from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the one which depicts the "Crocefissione" (Crucifixion) is particularly spectacular; frescos from the Giottesque school of the 1400s, representing the Stories of the Life of St Eligio and an "Ultima Cena" (Last Supper).


City: Bergamo

In the surroundings