A pupil of Giulio Romano, the architect Giovanni Battista Bertrani became Prefect of Works for the Gonzagas in 1549.
He left his stylistic mark on various parts of the city, chief among which the interior of the Ducal Palace. But his greatest work is without question this Palatine Basilica at the heart of the palace, with its impressive façade that looks out onto the piazza. Among other decrees, Duke William ordered some important relics to be housed here, including the blood of Christ mixed with sand brought to Mantua by St. Longinus. But as a music enthusiast, he founded an extremely important musical chapel, built by major artists, including Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The bell tower, built in 1565 according to Bertani's design, is also striking, with its combination of solid brick forms and graceful crowning elements. Damaged by the earthquake in 2012, it was returned to the people of the city in 2016.