Basilica of San Zeno


The Basilica of San Zeno is without any doubt one of the most suggestive and better preserved examples of Romanesque architecture in the whole of Northern Italy. What strikes the visitor most is the warm chromatism of the façade, due to the alternated use of tufa stone and bricks. The original nucleus of the complex has been identified in the church and convent that rose on the Roman and later early Christian buring ground near the Via Gallica. The church and convent had been built on the spot where the Saint had been buried, in order to preserve his relics and honor his memory. Saint Zeno, born in Africa, 8th Bishop of Verona, converted the whole town to Christianity. We still have 92 of his Sermons, the result of rich preaching and great pastoral wisdom. The early buildings underwent some changes in the 6th century, and some historians think the chapel of San Benedetto, still to be seen in the cloister, to be a part of this early church. The church soon became too small, due to the ever growing worship of the Saint. For this reason, the Frankish King Pépin, the Bishop Ratoldo and the Archideacon Pacifico decided to build a larger church and a monastery. The 8th of december 806 the new basilica was consecrated at the presence of King Pépin. On May 21st 807 St.Zeno’s relics were transfered into the new church, carried by the two hermits Saint Benigno and Saint Caro, once again at the presence of the King. In 963, after the devastation brought by the Hungarians, the Emperor OttoI and the Bishop Raterio rebuilt the basilica. This church was consecrated in 983 by Saint Adalberto, who carried out his pastoral activity in north-western Europe. It had three naves and three apses, a crypt, and was as wide as the present one, but less long. At the end of the 11th century new works to enlarge and renew the church were started: almost all the present basilica dates back to this period. An earthquake in 1117 interrupted the renovation and destroyed much of what had been done till then: the cloister the upper part of the bell tower and part of the monastery collapsed. The works were resumed soon after and lasted till 1138: evidence of this is the 1178 stone tablet embedded in the western wall near the façade. The church was lenghtened and completed with the façade and the porch by Maestro Nicolò. The bell tower was restored up till the second row of triforate windows in 1120 (stone tablet in the southern wall of the tower) and completed in 1178, while the cloister was restored by Abbot Gaudio in 1123 (it will be raised in 1293 and restored in 1313). Between 1217 and 1225 Maestro Brioloto and Adamino da S.Giorgio raised the façade and added the rose window. In 1387 Abbot Ottonello De’ Pasti ordered the rebuilding of the apse and the construction of the coffered wooden ceiling, shaped like a ship’s keel. As consequence of these works the walls of the central nave were also raised. In 1870-71 the large sixteenth-century stairway that connected the upper church to the part reserved to the congregation was pulled down, and two lateral stairways were built in its place, together with the central one that leads to the crypt. In the same years the two small apses, up till then used as store rooms, were reopened. In 1931 the presbytery underwent restoration works and the altarpiece by Andrea Mantegna found a better placement. In recent years the altar and the pulpit have been restored with ancient material. The monastery of San Zeno was shut down by the Republic of Venice in 1770. The basilica became a parish church in 1806.





Basilica of San Zeno Piazza San Zeno
37123 Verona, Italy



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