Basilica S. Maria Maggiore, Bergamo

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  • il Tempietto di Santa Croce.
    il Tempietto di Santa Croce.
    by IreneMcKay
  • Santa Maria Maggiore church
    Santa Maria Maggiore church
    by BergamoInsider
  • Basilica S. Maria Maggiore
    by croisbeauty
  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – interior

    by toonsarah Written Aug 6, 2012

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    3 more images

    We didn’t go into the basilica on our city walk, but I returned on the Sunday with Chris for Mass, and took the opportunity to look round inside. It is laid out on a Greek cross plan, reflecting its Romanesque origins, with wide transepts and a fairly short aisle. There is plenty to see and I’m sure we missed some of its treasures.

    The apse (photo one) has a beautiful gold ceiling, and immediately above where the four arms of the cross meet is a richly decorated cupola from the 16th century (photo two). There are a number of Flemish and Florentine tapestries, some of which were being restored when we visited. At the back of the church is an elaborate white marble monument (above right) designed by Vincenzo Vela, marking the tomb of the composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo and returned to die in the city. Nearby there is a monument to his teacher Simon Mayr – a nearby street is named for him.

    I especially liked the frescoes in the right transept – photo three shows one of the Tree of Life, dating from the 14th century, partially over-painted by a later 17th century one. I was also taken by this more modern sculpture of a young girl (photo four) though could find no sign explaining her presence here.

    Right next door to the Basilica is the ornate Capella Colleoni which Chris and I also visited later in the weekend.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – exterior

    by toonsarah Written Aug 6, 2012

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    The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which dates back to the 12th century, is considered to be one of the finest buildings in Lombardy, and was probably my favourite of all those I saw in Bergamo. Less severe than the Duomo, its neighbour to the left, and more restrained than the Cappella Colleoni on its right, it seemed to me to strike a happy balance, with its beautiful pink and white marble porch set against a rather plain grey stone backdrop. This porch forms the main entrance, which, unusually for a church, is on the side of the building rather than the west front opposite the altar – this is because that side of the church is attached directly to the Bishop’s Palace, as we shall see.

    The porch’s columns rest on the backs of pink marble Venetian lions (photo four). The arch (photo three) is decorated with hunting scenes. Above this a loggia houses statues of Santa Barbara, San Vincenzo (former patron saint of the Duomo) and Sant’Alessandro (to whom the cathedral is now dedicated). At the peak is a Gothic niche dating from 1403 by Hans von Fernach (photo two), with statues of the Madonna and Child (centre) Santa Ester (left) and Santa Grata (right. The latter was a local noble lady who was responsible for bringing the body of Sant’Alessandro to Bergamo’s Città Alta for burial after he was martyred – look closely and you will see that she holds his head on a cloth.

    The basilica has another entrance on the opposite side, with a somewhat simpler porch – this one is supported by white marble lions rather than pink, and by some bearded men apparently straining under the weight (photo five). Both porches are by Giovanni da Campione

    We didn’t go into the basilica on our city walk, but I returned on the Sunday with Chris for Mass, and took the opportunity to look round inside.

    So let us detour from the tour now to check out the basilica’s interior.

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  • irisbe's Profile Photo

    Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

    by irisbe Updated May 23, 2005

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    Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

    The Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore was built on the location of a smaller church named Santa Maria. The last one already mentioned in 774.

    The new Basilica was designed by the architect (maestro) Fredo and the construction works started in 1137.
    Probably it was built out of devotion after a severe plague that hit Bergamo earlier.
    If they knew what other terrible plague was holding the future for them!

    (If you visit La Rocca you will be able to have a look at the demographic changes throughout history. Very interesting!)

    The exterior of the church alone is already worth some of your precious time to analyse: two main portals (see also the other picture on next tip); the roof, the Medieval character (what a contrast with the interior!), complimented with some newer additions.

    The Colleoni Chapel next to it almost meant the demolition of this beautiful building.
    Colleoni wanted to use the old vestry of the basilica for his sepulchral (tombe monument)monument.
    He promised he would rebuild it afterwards… bigger and more beautiful.
    His melomanic dream came to an end when in 1475 he died, aged 80.



    On the picture (please click on it as it is panoramic):

    1.basilica and cathedral
    2-4. overwhelming decorations, started in 16th century and on
    5. Baroque confessional by Andrea Fantoni - inspired by the topic of the Confession
    6. Monument dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti, created by Vincenzo Vela (1855).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This basilica is just breath thaking.
    When I visited I didn't knew where to look first.
    If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, take at least an hour of your time to look around and let all this Baroque interior get a hold on you!

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  • irisbe's Profile Photo

    Flemish art in the Basilica

    by irisbe Updated May 23, 2005

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    part of Trilogie by Louis van Schooor

    When Caroline and I entered the Basilica, we where astonished by all the decorations! It was so outrageous! It was so beautiful!
    There were also some wall carpets hanging and they immediately caught my eye.
    Coming from a country with a great historical reputation of wall tapestry is not so unusual to be attracted by one. I scented… this must be Belgian… you know? Sometimes you have that feeling of recognizing home?

    I was right, there were different ones. The Crucifixion, a 17th century Flemish tapestry, was designed by Louis van Schoor (1666-1726) and fabricated by J. Regelbrugge.

    The tapestry on the picture is part of what is called the Antwerp trilogy. It is called in Italian: Mosè nel Roveto Ardente

    They newly got restored in 1998 by the Centro Restauri Manufatti Tessili di Francesco Pertegato, sponsored by the Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato e Agricoltuta di Bergamo.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Alta: Wander the exterior of SM Maggiore

    by leics Updated Jun 13, 2011

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    Romanesque pink lion
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    Look carefully.

    This is an ancient church, first built in 1137 on the site of an even older church. The interior has frescoes, tapestries, bronze candelabra and more...but it was the exterior which fascinated me.

    There are two Romanesque lions (pink) at the main entrance and, if you walk to the rear porch (by Giovanni da Campione...1353..imagine!) of the basilica, you will find two more (white).

    The carving on the main entrance is incredibly intricate, with each column having a different pattern.

    There are other carvings all around the exterior.

    Take time to wander around the exterior...and, if you are lucky, you will also be able to see the Tempietto di Santa Croce, tucked away behind the main building and dating from the 10th century..and maybe be able to access the most wonderfully-frescoed room adjacent to the main church (see 'off the beaten track' tips).

    SM Maggiore is open 9-12.30 and 2.30-6 Monday to Saturday, and 9-1 and 3-6 on Sundays.

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  • irisbe's Profile Photo

    story of S. Eligio

    by irisbe Updated May 23, 2005

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    Fresco in the Basilica

    The ”Story of S. Eligio”, as shown on the picture, is one of the frescoes you can admire in the Southern transept.
    Other topics of admiration is the other 13th century fresco right above it of the Last Supper.

    Saint Eloy is the patronage of the goldsmiths.
    He was born in 588 in Limoges in France and he was an excellent pupil and learned how to become a good blacksmith.

    The story goes he once took off a horse leg and took it in the work place and added a new horse shoe, then he simply screwed the leg back unto the horse.
    His boss wanted to copy it but when he cut off a horse leg, the horse began to bleed.
    It only stopped after Saint Eloy told his boss to remove a sign above his door spelling”the master of all masters”.
    When he did so, the horse stopped bleeding and happily galloped away.
    A miracle!

    That was the legend!



    The real story is that Eloy became famous working on gold and he was assigned to be in charge of making the golden money coins for Chlotarius II and Dagobert I, all from the Merovingian era.

    Chlotarius let himself made a golden throne by Eloy and gave him plenty of gold. Eloy: “as honest as gold”, returned the left over gold after finishing this piece. Very unusual honest behaviour!

    He became famous and had a big influence on the court. He used his influence to support the church and the poor. The less fortunate people admired him for his actions.

    In 639 he became priest an in 641 he became bishop of Noyon and Tournai.
    He died on 1 December 695.

    1st of December is the date he is remembered each year.

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  • irisbe's Profile Photo

    Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

    by irisbe Updated May 23, 2005

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    details of the outside of Basilica of Santa Maria

    Outside sculptures of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

    It is worth to walk around the building and have a look as well at the backside of the basilica. (Thank you Titti for this wonderful tip!)
    The Southern portal is designed by Campione and dates from 1360.
    Two white lions and two telamons support the vault.
    Above you can see depictured Jesus and his 12 disciples.



    On the photo (pls click on it to enjoy the full view):

    1. Left top: one of the lions of the Northern portal
    2. middle one of the telamons supporting the vault.
    3. left bottom: one of the white lions supporting the vault
    4-5: right top and bottom: a detail of the sculpture of Jesus and his 12 apostels.

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  • barrikello's Profile Photo

    Climbing up the "Campanone" - Bell tower

    by barrikello Written Jan 11, 2004

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    S. Maria Maggiore Cathedral

    On the right side of "Piazza Vecchia" - the Citta Alta central square - take the stairs up to the Bell Tower where you can enjoy the most beautiful view over Piazza del Duomo. The price is about 2 Euros.
    From the top, you can take a breathtaking look at the whole Medieval town, surrounded by the Pre-Alps.

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  • hojasdehierba's Profile Photo

    Baroque, baroque and...

    by hojasdehierba Written Feb 15, 2006

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    Where to put anything else?

    In the Piazza del Duomo in Bergamo, just behind Piazza Vecchia, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore was begun in XIIth century as a Romanesque basilica. On the south and north sides are doorways guarded by lions. Inside there are fine choir-stalls in Renaissance style, Baroque stucco-work and big tapestries on the walls of the side-aisles and choir. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a more abigarrated decoration. A blend of styles, yes, but the one which catch the eye is the Baroque. The church also contains the tomb of the composer Donizetti, who was from Bergamo.
    En la Plaza del Duomo en Bergamo, justo detras de la Piazza Vecchia, la Basilica de Sta. Maria Maggiore, fue comenzada en el siglo XII como una basilica romanica. En lado norte y sur hay entradas guardadas por leones. Dentro hay detalles del coro de estilo renacentista, estucado barroco y enormes tapices en las paredes de los pasillos laterales y el coro. De hecho, creo que nunca he visto una decoracion mas abigarrada. Una mezcla de estilos, si, pero el que capta la atencion es el Barroco, sin duda. La iglesia tambien contiene la tumba del compositor de opera Donizetti, que era natural de Bergamo.

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  • irisbe's Profile Photo

    Monument for Cardinal Guglielmo Longhi

    by irisbe Updated May 23, 2005

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    Monument in the Basilica

    The monument on the picture was created for Cardinal Guglielmo Longhi by Ugo da Campione (1319-1320).
    Original it was housed in the convent of S. Francesco but when that was suppressed it moved to the Basilica in 1839.

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  • croisbeauty's Profile Photo

    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

    by croisbeauty Updated Jul 30, 2005

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    Santa Maria Maggiore
    4 more images

    The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on the site of the former small church of Santa Maria, on which there is news as far back as the year 774, was probably the end-result of the devotion of the faithful, perhaps after a plague.
    The exterior of the basilica is the only one that had maintained medieval characteristics.
    The nothern protiro, which faces the Piazzetta del Duomo, and is situated left of the Colleoni Chapel, was designed and built by Giovanni da Campione between the years 1351 and 1353.
    On the southern side of the church (on this picture) stands out another protiro, which is less chromatic then the first, but not less lacking in colour effects, it is also work by Campione of 1360.

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  • croisbeauty's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Maggiore - interiors

    by croisbeauty Updated May 15, 2012

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    wooden confessional by Andrea Fantoni
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    As already said, the church can be accessed by two entrances, one which is next to Colleoni Chapel was made by Giovanni da Campione and the other called "Porta della Fontana", on the western side (next to Tempietto di Santa Croce), was made by Pietro Isabello.
    In the presbytery is a wooden choir designed by Bernardo Zenale, while the altar rail with wooden carvings was made to the designs of great Lorenzo Lotto. The right transepts has Giottesque frescoes from an unknown artist, with history of St. Aegidius, the last supper and the tree of life, al made in 1347 and partially covered by a 17th century fresco.
    Worth of note is elaboratelly carved wooden confessional designed by Andrea Fantoni in 1704.

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  • croisbeauty's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Maggiore - Porta della Fontana

    by croisbeauty Written May 15, 2012

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    S.M.Maggiore - Porta della Fontana
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    "Porta della Fontana" is the western side entrance to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is work of famous Venitian architect Pietro Isabello and is made in Renaissance style.
    This right transept's porch is supported by two lions in white marble. It has reliefs with Christ crowned by saints and birth of the baptist. In the lunette it has a fresco of "Mary's nativity" which is atributed to Andrea Previtali.

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  • croisbeauty's Profile Photo

    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

    by croisbeauty Updated Jul 30, 2005

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    S.M.Maggiore, the portal of Giovanni da Campione
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    The northern protiro of the basilica was built by Giovanni da Campione between the years 1451 and 1353. The sculptor-architect had wanted to give this portal a particular chronatic hue, maybe because it was facing north and ancient heart of the city.
    In building it, Campione had combined three colours of marble: red, white and black, giving some kind of predominance to the first colour, the warm one. Red are the lions and the columns which support the arch. The wall that clads the arch is white and red whilst three colours cover the vault.
    The steps are white and black, thus had the architect underlined the difference in levels of the piazzetta.
    Above the arch there is a loggia, divided into three parts, housing the Statue of Sant' Alessandro on horseback between the two saints, Barnaba and Proiettizio. In the higher niche above stands the statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child between the two saints Esteria and Grata.

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  • freddie18's Profile Photo

    View of Basilica of St Mary Major

    by freddie18 Written Sep 30, 2006

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    1 more image

    A recent trip to Bergamo was not in my itinerary. It was a blessing that I decided to go around stroll the old town with my family and see the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The church is situated in the Piazza del Duomo which is a few steps away from the Piazza Vecchia. In the picture you will see a display of the Lombard-Renaissance style of different coloured marbles. You can see how the basilica was designed with intricate carvings.
    This and the interior is worth seeing. The basilica is a 'must see' and is just a stone-throw from other Bergamo tourist attractions.

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