San Zeno Maggiore is often described as one Italy's nicest Romanesque-style churches. Even though a first church was built on the site at the beginning of the 9th century to house the remains of St. Zeno, the patron saint of Verona, it was very badly damaged during the 1117 earthquake. The present building, along with its 72 m high bell tower and beautiful cloisters, dates back to the 12th century and it has influenced the architecture of several other churches in Northern Italy and around the world. Some of the church's most famous features include the 48 bronze pannels that depict the life of St. Zeno as well as Andrea Mantegna's magnificient altarpiece, part of which was unfortunately stolen by Napoleon's troops and has never been returned (it can now be found at the Louvre). From the main church there is a wide staircase that leads down to the crypt where St. Zeno's body can be seen wearing a silver mask.
Admission to San Zeno Maggiore is included in the Verona Card.
There is much to see in St Zeno but, for me, the most memorable is the truly beautiful triptych altarpiece by Mantegna, "Madonna, Angels and Saints" completed in 1459. Clever, and at the time innovative, use of perspective makes the scene appear to go back into the distance beyond a handsome pillared structure. A fat garland of flowers strung between the pillars helps to create foreground. The Virgin and child is enthroned in the centre, surrounded by little singing angels each with their own character, two sharing a songbook and singing enthusiastically, two more seated playing instruments.
The "Angels and Saints" are on each side, but with the exception of the raggedly dressed man reading a book on the far right, they look more like city dignitaries to me. Below are three small detailed scenes showing the crucification, the vigil at the tomb and the resurrection of Christ. This is one of those paintings that the more you look, the more you see, and, as always with Mantegna, the characters of real people shine through. (See my Mantova page)
Basilica San Zeno, the most famous church in Verona, was created for the patron saint of the city. It was Saint Zeno who converted the city to Christianity. He came from North Africa in the 4th century AD and was ordained bishop of the city in 362 AD. He seems to be "a saint with a human face", he was a very keen fisherman and his statue in the church shows him holding a fishing rod and smiling.
The church and convent was build on the spot where Saint was buried, in order to preserve his relics and honour his memory. The original church was soon too small and a new basilica was build and consecrated on 8th December 806 AD - amazing, to me that we know the actual day. The church was damaged and rebuilt again the 10th century, but building work was disrupted by the earthquake of 1117 and much of the current basilica dates from the early part of 12th century. The rose window known as the Wheel of Fortune was completed in about 1225.
The basilica is spacious with characteristic Veronese Romanesque stripes of stone and brick, pink marble columns and a "keel" wooden ceiling. To the right of the facade rises the bell tower which stands separately from the church. This was built between 1045 and about 1150 and also has characteristic stripes of red brick and creamy stone. (At the time of visiting this was all wrapped up for renovation). The 13th century Benedictine tower to the left of the church is all that remains of the monastery that once stood there.
Zeno was the eighth bishop of Verona, during the 4th century (late Western Roman Empire).
Now he is the patron Saint of our town
The church dedicated to him was built outside the citylimits, and it's a special place for more than a reason
- it's a masterpiece or the Romanesque architecture, that i love so much
- it has an original main door, still tiled by bronze tiles, each describing a scene from the bible. The "bible of ignorant people" who could not read. Each of it is a masterpiece: see a few by clicking here. Usually it is covered by a wooden door: go there from inside the church to see them.
The same kind of bible illustration is carved in stone just around the gate
- it has a charming, ancient cloister
- a famous painting of Mantegna, that recently had a restoration , is the main altarpiece.
- many frescoes all around
And not only a beautiful church, but also a very nice neighbourhood with shops, restaurants, bar, very crowded by the locals, "sanzenati" that consider the place a sort of village inside the bigger town.
They are big fans of the carnival festival, taken very seriously here in San Zeno, where the people who will play the main carnival characters are elected after a very hard electoral campaign Learn more of the Verona carnival here
... more coming soon
San Zeno in Oratorio, one of the oldest church in Verona, is dedicated to the Saint patron of the town. The church, which stands right next to the Castelvecchio, was built on the site of an ancient Roman graveyard. In fact, many important tombs and urns has been excavated around the church, today preserved in Museo Lapidario Maffeiano.
The present appearance of the church dates back in the 12th century, after the earthquake in 1117.
CLOSED for renovation the sign read for SAn Zeno. What a disappointment. History indicates many years of change. In the 4th century a small church was built over the tomb of St. Zeno. That was destroyed in 9th century, but rebuilt, and then again destroyed by the Magyar invasion in 10th century and again rebuilt. Then the earthquake of 1117 damaged the church, so it was restored and enlarged with work completed in 1398. The Gothic style and the red/white marble facing is impressive. The bell tower is 72 meters, and the Rose window is said to be a site to behold, as well as the two main pillars supported by marble lions, or the bronze doors.
The San Lorenzo-St. Lawrence church was begun in the 4th century, but again the earthquake of 1117, it was rebuilt and added two round towers. The courtyard and the inside of the church appear untouched since then. It holds a great image of what it may have been like in 1200's. Simple, but reverent. You need to look hard to find the entrance; well hidden
St. Anastasia church and its Gothic architecture dates back to 1290. Work continued through early 16th century before complete. The marble entrance leads to the Giusti chapel and the end and a great Presbitery altar.
All churches can be viewed separately for about 3-4 Euro, or a buy a church pass for about 6 Euro. WE bought a Verona card, that allows entry to all famous sites and the churches in addition for 16 Euro.
Above the main entrance there is a carved panel which shows Zeno converting the city to Christianity. Imagine the crowds gathering in the prosperous Roman city of Verona to listen to this man with his ideas and beliefs. He must have had charisma, must have been a wonderful and wise speaker. So few could read or write at this time, so they could not learn from books. Think of the crowds, rich and poor, gathering to listen to this man, believing him, thinking this is something new, something special, being there at the birth of Christianity in the city. Only relatively recently, in 325 AD, had the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the religion of Rome.
San Zeno Maggiore is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Italy. It was founded in the 5th century above the tomb of Bishop Zeno. After it was devastated by an earthquake in 1117 it was rebuilt from 1118 - 1138.
Some highlights are the portal (the doors in particular), the altar painting of Andrea Mantegna, the statue of Bishop Zeno, the cloisters, the crypt.
San Zeno, who was of African descent, was the eight bishop of Verona. He died in 380, and the first church was built here in his memory. The terrible earthquake of 1117 wrecked it, so this one was completed here in the 13th and 14th centuries. This is one of the finest examples of late Romanesque architecture in nothern Italy.
This has become one of my favourite churches in all Europe! We were planning to go to Sirmione as we had an extra day in Verona and at first didn't think just the church would be enough for a day. However, the weather was bad and we decided to stay in town. I am so glad we did. Most people overlook it as it is a kilometre away from the immediate Old Town.
The main church gates are huge, and full of sculpted art such as Adam and Eve. The exterior in general is of the stripy red and white "tufa" style well known in Italy. You enter through a side door and are met by the magnificent cloisters (the monastery was closed by the Republic of Venice in 1770). The walls in them full of frescoes. Then into the church itself. Again, the walls are full of frescoes, some on top of older ones! The Romanesque interior is spacious and almost northern in its purity. Not at all as decorated as Italian churches can be, but nevertheless full of art.
African saint San Zeno is the patron saint of Verona and the man who christianised the city. The church was started in the 6th century on the spot were his grave was. The church soon became too small for Verona and the Frankish King Pepin therefore inaugurated a new church on today's spot in 807 and had San Zeno's relics moved here. It has since suffered attacs from the Hungarians, an earthquake in the 12th century and much more but constantly been repaired and extended. In 1806, after the monastery had been closed, it became a parish church.
The "crypt" today is a wide area you can only look into through bars most days but you see quite a lot from that position. The church altar pieces by Mantegna are copies. The originals were stolen by Napoleon and can be seen in Paris. The copies nevertheless give a very good feeling for the painter and what he wanted to say. Having said that, the frescoes tend to get most of your attention as they are so many.
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